NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Friday approved amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, 2012 to make way for the provision of death penalty even for those who sexually assault boys under 12. Till now, such crimes committed against boys carried a lighter punishment as compared to those against girls.
The quantum of punishment for several other offences was also increased, and strict punishments introduced for crimes such as injecting hormones to make children attain sexual maturity, circulating child pornography, and assaulting minors during riots or natural disasters. The Cabinet approved changes to Section 6 of the POCSO Act, enhancing the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
Following the outrage over gangrapes of minors in Kathua and Unnao earlier this year, the Centre had brought an ordinance in April to make a provision of death penalty for rapists of children under 12, and followed it by passing a Bill in Parliament during the monsoon session.
The Bill was introduced to amend the Indian Penal Code to provide death penalty for gang rape of a girl less than 12 years, and 20 years’ jail to death penalty for rape of a girl under 12 years, among others. Provisions were also added to award imprisonment for the rest of one’s natural life for gang rape of a girl under 16 years, while rape of a girl in the same age bracket would be punishable with jail of 20 years up to life imprisonment.
However, the absence of changes to POCSO Act, which is gender neutral and deals with sexual crimes against both girls and boys, meant that similar crimes committed against boys carried lighter punishment as compared those committed against girls.
The latest set of changes approved by the Union Cabinet sought to fix these contradictions.