Govt readies bill on child sexual abuse

Sonia Gandhi had earlier reminded Krishna Tirath of the need for a law against CSA

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | September 13, 2010



The ministry of women and child development (WCD) has been pulled up by the National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi over the delay in preparing a draft on 'Prevention of Offences against the Child Bill, 2009'.

Gandhi had written a letter, copy of which is with Governance Now, to the WCD minister Krishna Tirath reminding her of urgent need to bring the law. Gandhi wrote about the study undertaken by the ministry in 2007 which revealed that 53% of children in India have been sexually abused and 70% of these cases remain unreported due to lack of appropriate legislation on the subject. She said that it is important to immediately bring 'a law that addresses the issue of sexual offences against children, without waiting for a more comprehensive legislation which may take time.'  

The law ministry in June had prepared a tentative draft of the Protection of Children from Sexual Assault Bill, 2010. This draft for the first time proposed to put the onus of proving their innocence on the accused - unlike the existing provisions in which the prosecution has to prove the guilt of the accused.

The WCD ministry, however, wanted some changes in the draft bill, and this led to the delay in presenting the bill. The ministry has been working on the Prevention of Offences Against the Child Bill, 2009, which seeks to address all offences against children, including sexual offences. 

In her letter, Gandhi has pointed out, "However, this omnibus legislation is likely to take time."

Tirath in her reply informed Gandhi that her ministry has finalised the draft legislation by consensus from the ministry of law and justice. The draft thus prepared by the ministry has added offences such as pornography related ones as well as strengthening child friendly procedures to bring greater sensitivity to handle cases related to child sexual assault.

The new draft, copy of which is with the Governance Now, proposes that the evidence be recorded within a month and only on camera. It also says that children should not be forced to confront the accused while testifying. The bill also says that using a minor for pornography could make an individual liable for rigorous imprisonment for 5 years extendable to 7 years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh extendable to Rs 10 lakh.

The ministry has also asked the National Comission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to explore changes in the Juvenile Justice Act to include stringent punishment for corporal punishment and ragging in educational institutions.

The bill is likely to be sent to the Union cabinet by end of this month and may be introduced in the winter session of Parliament.

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