ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Saving Our Children

We need better implementation, not more stringent laws.

Barbaric punishment for barbaric crimes: we hear this
demand repeated each time there is a horrific crime. It was heard again in the case filed by the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association in the Supreme Court, asking for a tougher law to deal specifically with sexual assaults on children between the ages of two and 10. One of the demands was for chemical castration of convicted rapists. The petitioners argued that even if this is considered barbaric, it is justified. While the association’s plea before the Court reflects the horror felt in society as sexual assaults on little children continue to be reported every day, the response of the Court, the lawyers who have filed the plea and the media remains trapped within the fallacious belief that stringent punishment lowers the crime rate.

To deal with sexual assault on a “child,” defined as a person below 18 years of age, there are provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and, specifically, in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012. This law, enacted in response to India signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, lays out detailed provisions on “penetrative sexual assault” and “aggravated penetrative assault,” including assaults on children under 12 years of age. It also has provisions dealing with sexual harassment, trafficking, child pornography, etc, and the punishment under each head. For penetrative sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, the punishment is a minimum of 10 years of rigorous imprisonment extending to life and a fine.

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