The POCSO Act was introduced in 2012 by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. The purpose of the Act was to protect minors from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography. Special courts: Establish Special Courts for the prosecution of such offences. In 2019, the Act was revised to strengthen the penalties for specified violations in order to prevent abusers and promote a decent upbringing.
The National Crime Records Bureau has not separately provided data on male and female victims (Chhattisgarh). Male child victims made up roughly eight out of every 1,000 POCSO instances (0.8%). It validates society’s concern that sexual exploitation of male minors is a big problem. Adequate public awareness to report incidences of child sexual exploitation perpetrated not just by individuals but also by institutions.
The POCSO Act has made non-reporting a particular crime. The storing of child pornography material has been designated as a new crime. Unlike an abstract concept of ‘outraging a woman’ in the Indian Penal Code, the offence of’sexual assault’ has been specified in concrete terms (with enhanced minimum sentence).
The Code of Criminal Procedure still governs a large portion of the investigation of offences under the Act (CrPC). The investigation of a penetrative sexual assault case often include recording the prosecutrix’s statement, a medical and forensic science laboratory (FSL) examination, and determining the child’s age.
The POCSO Act requires a woman sub-inspector to record the affected child’s statement at the child’s house or place of choice. Women make up only 10% of the police force, and many police stations have few female officers. The pilot initiative has yet to be rolled out throughout all states.
During a trial, judicial judges are not asked for cross-examination, nor are those who reverse their statements penalised. A female doctor conducts a girl child’s medical examination (as specified in the POCSO Act).
There have been no initiatives to update FSLs in states in order to speed up exhibit inspection. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act governs the age of a juvenile delinquent. There is no such protection under the POCSO Act for minor victims. In the absence of a change in the legislation or special instructions, investigating officers (IOs) continue to rely on the date of birth reported in school admission-withdrawal registers.
In most situations, parents are unable to defend themselves in court due to a lack of hospital or other valid paperwork. Age estimate based on medical opinion is so broad that minors are frequently found to be majors. When it comes to demonstrating juvenility, the POCSO Act has made little impact in investigations. According to the POCSO Act, the court must infer that the accused committed the offence.
The POCSO Act has no conditions at all, in contrast to the Indian Evidence Act (Section 114(b): The prosecution must prove recent intercourse, and the prosecutrix must testify in court that she did not consent. Two months are required to conclude the rape inquiry. It has had two big effects on the field: The IOs are under intense pressure to file a charge sheet within two months, regardless of the level of the investigation.
POCSO cases are overseen by the Ministry of Home Affairs via the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) and state police headquarters. If a charge sheet is not filed within 90 days after the accused’s arrest, he or she will be given bail. When a charge sheet is filed within 60 days after the filing of the FIR (rather than arrest), the accused may request bail immediately.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) launched a plan to establish an Investigation Unit on Crime Against Women (IUCAW). Comprised of 15 police officers, at least one-third of whom are female, and led by an extra superintendent of police in each district. Aim: To ensure high-quality investigations of crimes against women on a 50:50 basis.
Recognized that teenage relationships are natural, and that criminalising such behaviours has an impact on both sides. Adolescent romance is an essential developmental sign for teenagers’ self-identity, functioning, and ability for intimacy, according to the High Court in Vijayalakshmi v. State Rep. (2021).
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recommended nations to combine protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse with respect for their increasing autonomy in General Comment No. 20. States should avoid criminalising teenagers of similar ages for sexual conduct that is factually consenting and non-exploitative.” It recommended states in 2019 to repeal status offences, which criminalise minors who engage in consenting sexual actions with one another.
Related Constitutional Provisions:
Article 21: Every child the right to live with dignity the right to personal liberty and the right to privacy
Article 14: the right to equality
Article 15: right against discrimination
Article 23 & 24: right against exploitation
Article 21A: Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age.
Article 39(f): Obligation on the State to ensure that:
Children are provided opportunity and resources to grow in a healthy, free, and dignified environment. Childhood and youth are shielded from exploitation and moral and financial abandonment.
The admissibility of evidence captured using any audio-video method will always be an issue in the absence of sufficient infrastructure to preserve the integrity of electronic evidence. It is past time to examine how the POCSO Act is being administered to see how far it has assisted victims of sexual exploitation and what more needs to be done to secure justice.
Criminalization of consenting sexual actions between or among adolescents: It infringes their right to life, privacy, and dignity, as well as their sexual development, physical integrity, and autonomy. Comprehensive sexuality education is required to bridge information gaps, develop positive skills and attitudes, and help teenagers to make informed decisions and manage interpersonal interactions while also understanding the value of their health and dignity.
An amendment to the POCSO Act and the Indian Penal Code to legalise consensual actions with teenagers above the age of 16, guaranteeing that individuals over the age of 16 but under the age of 18 are safeguarded against non-consensual conduct.