The Indian government has cleared a slew of amendments to an existing gender-neutral law against sexual abuse of children introducing the provision of death penalty in cases of aggravated sexual offences and more stringent penal provisions aimed at clamping down on child pornography. The 14 amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO)) Act 2012 was okayed at a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Wednesday.
The amendments will make punishment more stringent for committing sexual crimes against children including death penalty and also provide for levy of fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters. The amendments, first cleared by the Cabinet in 2018, were introduced as a Bill in the Lok Sabha in February but could not be passed because of the announcement of parliamentary elections.
Among others, the amendments seek to award the death penalty in cases of aggravated penetrative sexual assault of children, making it gender neutral. The amendments also bring in a section to penalise the possession of child pornography with up to three years in jail. The amendments also include the introduction of some new sections which aim at making punishments for crimes against children, including digital offences, more stringent. These include amendments to Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the POSCO Act to increase the punishment from seven to 10 years, from 10 to 20 years and from 20 to life imprisonment and death.
Amendments to Sections 14 and 15 of the Act aim to regulate child pornography, by proposing punishments ranging from a fine of Rs 1000 to imprisonment for up to seven years for storing, not deleting or reporting, and producing child pornography for commercial purposes. The amendments also penalise the transmission of pornographic material to children and proposes a synchronising of this with the Information Technology Act.
An official statement termed the amendments as a “historic decision” to protect the children from sexual offences. The amendments are expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions incorporated in the Act, it said adding it also “intends to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress (natural disaster and violence) and ensures their safety and dignity.” The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. The Act defines a child as any person below 18 years of age.