CHENNAI: India will soon have its first law to deal exclusively with child sexual abuse cases. The provisional draft of the bill, titled ‘Sexual Offences Against Children Bill, 2010', seeks to substitute the word ‘rape' with technical terms and cover several forms of abuse of both boys and girls, which now remain grey areas in the absence of a specific legislation. The proposed legislation calls for setting up of special courts, special public prosecutors and child-friendly proceedings.
"We have prepared a provisional draft in consultation with NGOs and experts, which will be forwarded to the ministry of woman and child development for inputs. We have not set a deadline to present the Bill in Parliament but we want to do it at the earliest, given the increasing number of child sexual abuse cases in the country," Union law minister Veerappa Moily told TOI.
Calling for special courts and special prosecutors in every district to try such cases, the draft proposes that evidence from the child be recorded within a month of the court taking cognizance and the trial be completed within a year.
At present, cases of sexual offences against children are being tried under the Indian Penal Code, which does not always take into consideration the age of the victim. With such offences attracting only such sections that deal with rape, unnatural offences and outraging the modesty of a woman, many sexual offences against children, especially those against boys, were not getting a focussed trial, it was felt.
The draft proposes to prosecute child sex offenders mainly under five heads —penetrative sexual assault, aggravated penetrative sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and sexual harassment.
While penetrative sexual assault covers all kinds of penetration using body parts or objects, the other acts come under sexual assault. Sexual harassment covers abuse of a child using gestures and spoken words.
The term ‘aggravated' is prefixed to offences when the perpetrator is a person who wields power by virtue of being in a position of authority or trust or when the victim has a mental or physical disability. It recommends punishments ranging from three years in jail for ‘sexual harassment' to life imprisonment for ‘aggravated sexual assault.'
The proposed special courts for offences against children would also hear cases pertaining to child abuse as defined under the Information Technology Act, which includes abuse through the internet and child pornography. "The bill proposes to also cover IT-aided crime against children. It will be a comprehensive law to protect children against all forms of sexual abuse," the law minister said.
While the proposed bill defines a person below the age of 18 as a child, it permits sex between people above the age of 16 years if it meets 14 conditions that define consent.