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.
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?
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 email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.