A child till 18, says new law
By Rajeshwari Ganesan Iyer | Published: 19th November 2012 09:00 AM |
With the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 coming into force from November 14, the definition of a child for the purpose of prosecuting a sex offender has changed. According to the Act, a child is defined as any person below the age of 18. The Act provides graphic definitions of different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.
Hailing the new law, Child Rights and You (CRY) director Regina Thomas said “This is a landmark legislation as it is for the first time in the country that a special law has been passed to address the issue of sexual violence against kids. Further, it is for the first time that the offences including sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography have been clearly defined in Indian penal law.”
Further, the Act endorses severe punishment with a maximum term of rigorous life-imprisonment in the case of selected offences.
Commenting on the law, Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath told Express that it is not just sexually assaulting a child that can invoke punishment. Even if a person provides false information with the intent to defame anyone including a child, he can be penalised under the Act.
“On Friday we had a meeting of Consultative Committee of Parliament which was chaired by me and I clearly put it across that the current laws have been insufficient and inefficient to deal with the specific requirements regarding children. This is because these laws do not distinguish between an adult and a child victim, who is more vulnerable,” she said in a telephonic conversation from New Delhi.
She pointed out that the current laws are not gender neutral and the definition of “rape” is also restrictive.
“The salient feature of this new Act is that it is gender neutral and covers all persons below 18 years of age. I have urged the States to initiate necessary action at their end.
We have also approached the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development to include appropriate information on child sexual abuse in the school curriculum,” Tirath added.
Child rights activists have hailed the Act saying that it is in keeping with the best international child protection standards. “The Act provides for child-friendly procedures for reporting of offences, recording of evidence, investigation and trial.
For once it will not be the child who would be at blame if he or she is sexually abused,” says Maheshwari, a child psychologist.