IMPORTANCE OF POCSO ACT IN TODAY'S WORLD
Often an under-reported offence, Child Sexual Abuse is among the highly prevalent problems in the country. Child abuse is a physical, sexual, and/or psychological maltreatment or neglect of a child of a child below 18 years. In many cases, child abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts — often a parent or other relative. With an estimate of more than 3 million children becoming a victim of such abuse every year, this issue has reached an epidemic proportion in India.
WHAT CAN NEGLIGENCE LEAD TO?
Leaving children in an unsupervised and unsafe environment, ignoring child’s needs and making them feel stupid or worthless, exposing them to sexual situations are all forms of child abuse and they can leave a long-lasting scar on children. Not every scar is evident, even though physical abuse does leave some marks but not every sign of abuse is obvious. In fact, any kind of abuse can leave a serious emotional scar on a child’s mental health. As a result of being neglected, an abused child might start living in a denial about what happened or might develop anger towards the abuser and have trust issues. Sadness, confusion, low self-esteem and self-doubt could lead the child into depression and anxiety. The child might start reliving the abuse and have nightmares and flashbacks.
MYTHS ABOUT CHILD ABUSE
“Abuses don’t happen in good families.” “It’s always the stranger that abuses.” “Only if it’s violent, it’s abuse.” All these statements are a myth that the society lives in and we need to burst this bubble. Sometimes, the families that pretend to be perfect to the world hide a different story behind closed doors. Abuse doesn’t see caste, culture, race or economic standards, it can happen anywhere. The good and well-to-do families might be better at hiding but it’s a myth that abuse doesn’t happen there. Most abusers are found to be known to the victim or are close to the victim’s family, abuse by strangers does happen but that’s not the case always. Last, but not the least, abuse need not be violent always. Yes, physical abuse does exist but it’s not only one kind. Sexual and emotional abuse can inflict much dangerous damage to the body and mind of the child. Abuses can happen anywhere by anyone and can be of any kind, but what’s important is to prevent the occurrence of such abuses rather than to just protect it. Prevention is better than cure, always.
PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL OFFENCES (POCSO) ACT, 2012.
In order to effectively address such heinous crimes of sexual exploitation of children, the Ministry of Women and Child Development introduced the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. POCSO Act is specifically formulated to protect the child from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. It provides 46 provisions, including the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such matters related to sexual abuse. Introduction of this act also increased the scope of reporting offences against children that were not covered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Every stage of the judicial proceedings under this act has been made child-friendly, maintaining the protection of the child as a priority.
Normally the legal principle "innocent until proven guilty" is considered but this act sets “guilty until proven innocent” as the burden of proof. Also to forestall misuse of the law, the act contains punishments for false complaints and false information with malicious intent. The Act additionally prescribes punishments for attempted crimes as well as aiding-and-abetting these crimes or inability to report these wrongdoings. If there is any suspicion that an offence ought to be reported, the Act advises reporting because failure to report alone may result in as long as a half year of detainment or potential fines. POCSO is gender-neutral, which implies that crimes of this nature committed against children will be dealt with this act regardless of the gender of the child. The Act has also changed consensual sex under the Indian Penal Code. The age of consent has been raised from 16 years of age to 18 years of age. This implies that any individual (including a child) can be prosecuted for engaging in a sexual act with a child regardless of whether the latter consented.
The current legislation for criminalizing sexual offences against children was a much-needed piece of enactment. The deterrent effect which this act renders is also adequate, but to overcome and eradicate this issue from the grassroots level, the collective consciousness among the masses should be pure and must incorporate the feelings of love and care.