In order to address the increased number of sexual offences against children in the country the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) introduced the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which came into force on Nov 14, this year.
Minister of State (I/C) WCD Krishna Tirath said, "The existing laws such as the IPC were insufficient and deficient to deal with the specific requirements regarding children as they do not distinguish between an adult and a child victim. Moreover, these laws are not gender neutral and the definition of 'rape' is also restrictive."
The new Act, she said, is gender neutral and covers all persons below the age of 18 years of age.
"Clear definition and description of offences have been provided. Also, stringent and harsh punishment for the offences has been prescribed in the Act."
The Minister stated that the Act will be effective when its implementation is effective, for which spreading awareness about the various features and provisions of the Act becomes extremely crucial.
She also mentioned that the States have a very important role to play in the implementation of the Act.
She therefore urged the members of the Consultative Committee to suggest ways and means by which the awareness campaign of the Act could be strengthened, and ways through which its implementation is made more effective.
The WCD Minister mentioned that she has written to all the States for necessary action to be taken at their end.
The Act was also discussed in the meeting of the State Ministers and Secretaries in September this year.
She said that the HRD is being approached to include age appropriate information on the issue in school curriculum.
Also, training of police functionaries at all levels and those of the Judiciary and Central and State governments is crucial for effective implementation of the Act, she noted.
According to POCSO Act, the states are responsible for designation of the sessions court in each district as a special court under the Act, along with the appointment of Special Public Prosecutor, establishment of special Juvenile police Units, Child Welfare Committees and District Child Protection Units.
Formulation of schemes for payment of compensation to the child victims is also the responsibility of the State governments.
The members, while lauding the Act, stated that various organizations within the civil society and the NGOs working in this field should be roped in to spread awareness about the Act.
Also, it needs to be ensured that the provisions of the Act should not be misused to settle scores or to victimise people, the members mentioned.
"Proper and adequate training of the functionaries associated with the implementation of the Act should assume top priority," Tirath added.