An Overview of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
In order to effectively address the heinous crimes of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of childrenthrough less ambiguous and more stringent legal provisions, the Ministry of Women and Child Development championed the introduction of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age, and regards the best interests and well-being of the child as being of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child. It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography, and deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority vis-à-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor. People who traffic children for sexual purposes are also punishable under the provisions relating to abetment in the Act. The Act prescribes stringent punishment graded as per the gravity of the offence, with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life, and fine.
Under Section 44 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences(POCSO)Act and Rule 6 of POCSO Rules, 2012, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, in addition to its assigned functions, also mandated:
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- To monitor in the implementation of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012;
- To monitor the designation of Special Courts by State Governments;
- To monitor the appointment of Public Prosecutors by State Governments;
- To monitor the formulation of the guidelines described in section 39 of the Act by the State Governments, for the use of non-governmental organisations, professionals and experts or persons having knowledge of psychology, social work, physical health, mental health and child development to be associated with the pre-trial and trial stage to assist the child, and to monitor the application of these guidelines;
- To monitor the designing and implementation of modules for training police personnel and other concerned persons, including officers of the Central and State Governments, for the effective discharge of their functions under the Act;
- To monitor and support the Central Government and State Governments for the dissemination of information relating to the provisions of the Act through media including the television, radio and print media at regular intervals, so as to make the general public, children as well as their parents and guardians aware of the provisions of the Act;
- To call for a report on any specific case of child sexual abuse falling within the jurisdiction of a CWC;
- To collect information and data on its own or from the relevant agencies regarding reported cases of sexual abuse and their disposal under the processes established under the Act, including information on the following:-
- Number and details of offences reported under the Act;
- Whether the procedures prescribed under the Act and rules were followed,Including those regarding timeframes;
- Details of arrangements for care and protection of victims of offences under this Act, including arrangements for emergency medical care and medical examination; and
- Details regarding assessment of the need for care and protection of a child by the concerned CWC in any specific case.
- To assess the implementation of the provisions of the Act and to include a report in a separate chapter in its Annual Report to the Parliament.