POCSO Act: Govt approves more stringent punishment for convicts

Union cabinet approves amendments to POCSO Act, 2012

The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to protect children from sexual assault, harassment and pornography | Reuters POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to protect children from sexual assault, harassment and pornography | Reuters

Addressing the changing needs to control sexual crimes against children, the Union cabinet on Friday approved amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. The amendments enhance the quantum of punishment, including death penalty, for committing sexual crimes against children.

The new amendments have included a special provision against those who administer hormones to children to make them attain early sexual maturity. Special provisions have also been introduced to check the menace of child pornography.

Under the amended provisions proposed for the POCSO Act, stringent punishment has been suggested when “children are abused during the natural calamities and disasters and in cases where children are administered, in any way, any hormone or any chemical substance, to attain early sexual maturity for the purpose of penetrative sexual assault,” the cabinet said. These changes will be made in Section 9 of the Act.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said changes have been made in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the POCSO Act to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse. Changes include the option of stringent punishment, including death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault crime on a child, to protect the children from sexual abuse.

Officials said Section 14 and 15 of the POCSO Act, 2012 were also proposed to be amended to address the menace of the child pornography. It is proposed to levy a fine for not destroying or deleting or reporting the pornographic material involving a child. The person can be further penalised with jail term or fine or both for transmitting or propagating such material in any manner except for the purpose of reporting as may be prescribed and for use as evidence in court. “Penal provisions have been made more stringent for storing/possessing any pornographic material in any form involving a child for commercial purpose,” the officials said.

Changes are being made as suggested by various child rights bodies, agencies and parents to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress, and to ensure their safety and dignity. The amendments aim to establish clarity regarding the aspects of child abuse and punishment thereof.

The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to protect the children from sexual assault, harassment and pornography. The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age.