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“The Amendments To The POCSO Act Are Not Enough To Deter Crimes Against Children.”

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The Union Cabinet has given a nod to the amendments made in the POCSO Act 2012. POCSO basically stands for Protection of Children From Sexual Offence. Having said that, it is expected, that after everything, now, the judicial system of the country will take this act seriously. Yes, to be precise, seriously. This is because there are still certain loopholes in the act and the most important one pertains to the age limit of both the victim and the perpetrator.

What Is The Issue With The Age Limit Of The Accused?

As per my understanding, it is not clear whether the juvenile accused will be subjected to the same level of punishment as an adult or the matter would be passed on to the Juvenile Justice Board. If the latter is likely to happen, then is this amendment going to adhere to the intention it has been charged with? Is there a guarantee that this will act as a deterrent to the crime? When a person exploits and brutalises children, is any kind of concession justified? This will simply destroy the weight of the penalty.

Now coming to the point of the victim’s age limit. In 2018, the bill stated that this punishment will be valid only if the victim is of 12 years of age or below that. So I fail to understand, what would really happen if the victim is 13 or 14? Will this be considered as a signal that assaulting a 13-year-old child isn’t as grave and that it does not deserve capital punishment?

KOLKATA, INDIA – APRIL 17: People from different communities took to the streets to protest against the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua and the rape of a 17-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao, on April 17, 2018 in Kolkata, India. (Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

In that case, it will result in the regular 10 years or 30 years of life imprisonment. Now the question arises, how is the government planning to mend this serious gap in implementing this law? And very importantly, are our children safe now? In my opinion, the answer still remains NO! There is a good chance that the law will be misused thoroughly as the victims are vulnerable. Even for the parents, it will be an agonising experience.

Let’s discuss the sentence and execution of the law. Has this country ever witnessed any death penalty in a rape case being taken to the stage of execution? The answer is a No, and the question is why? What has been stopping the system? Is it power, wealth or influence associated with the convict? If so, then why are Nirbhaya’s (Jyoti Singh Pandey’s) criminals still alive even after getting the death sentence?

Consider the recent verdict given in Asifa’s (Kathua) case. The entire country ran through a series of applause stating justice had been achieved. Really? Not even a single accused who was eventually found to be guilty received capital punishment and just two out of five were found guilty enough to have life-term. Isn’t that ridiculous?

What more was actually expected out of them to have made them suitable to receive a stringent punishment? Earlier this year, we saw a great number of acts of brutality against children. However, we have not yet heard of a landmark judgement given in any of those cases, including the brutal case of two-year-old Twinkle Sharma from Aligarh, though it may not have been a case of sexual assault to be specific, the criminals deserve stringent punishment.

The system needs to understand that merely passing laws in the parliament is going to change nothing. It is absurd that the law will wait until the child gets raped because very little has been said about molestation. Does this means molestation of children will go unnoticed unless there is penetrative sexual assault!? The way has been conveniently paved for a disaster to happen. So, my questions are, is the law merely a tool to keep the vote bank secured? Is it just a passing promise without any conviction whatsoever?

Why is it so difficult to understand that this is a priority for the country. Not just the bill, but its adherence and execution too. The cruel instinct of a person who can sexually objectify a child does not deserve any mercy. There shouldn’t be any reasons or justifications in favour of perpetrators; the system, as well as society,  need to understand this.

It is still a pity that children aren’t looked at as the utmost priority in our country. Be it school, daycare centres, parks, playground or at home, the children are not safe anywhere. Until when are we going to keep children under the veil of protection? When are we going to develop more effective mechanisms to stop these vultures who abuse children? In my opinion, it’s now or never.

If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at dial1098@childlineindia.org.in. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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