- As you are aware, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was introduced to protect children from sexual exploitation, harassment, and provide succour from perpetrators of heinous crimes. This law is intended to not only deter potential pedophiles from perpetrating crimes against innocent and gullible children but also have in place a law extending all possible state protection to the victims seeking justice. As the social mores keep changing even as society progresses leaps and bounds on the back of technology-driven evolution, the law and order situation too had to be strengthened accordingly. Hence, the POCSO Act was envisaged to create an environment of congeniality for children to lead lives with due protection from the state.
- Make no mistake, each one of us must be equally responsible to ensure children organically grow without having to undergo traumatic experiences early in their life. Despite making tremendous progress over the years vis-à-vis desired developments, the largely prevalent misogynistic and patriarchal mindset where male domination broaches no questioning from other gender poses challenges even now. The sense of entitlement pervading male progenies right from birth largely contributes to skewed gender parity where females are treated as second citizens. Of course, efforts to usher in gender equality, parity, and a level playing field without bias have indeed made some progress but have not failed to completely obliterate the prevailing male chauvinism.
- Any law of the land should be flexible enough to make alterations in line with the changing times. The same philosophy applies to the POCSO Act as well. The POCSO is a widely supported law but raised the age of consent from 16 to 18 years and has caused considerable disquiet in the justice system since then. The increase in threshold appears to be out of sync with ground reality. Consider the following. Recently, Tamil Nadu’s director general of police issued a circular to the force asking them to avoid haste in making arrests under POCSO as many cases involve relationships based on consent. Independently, some constitutional courts such as Allahabad HC expressed concern about abuse of the law when it comes to relationships between teenagers.
PC: Harshita Mani
- Further, Chief Justice of India Chandrachud last week pointed out that the law presumes that there’s no consent in the legal sense among those below 18, which poses difficult challenges. He suggested lawmakers address concerns about the criminalization of adolescents engaging in consensual sex. Research suggests that the increase in the threshold of consent to 18 has led to abuse of the legislation. The most recent study covered three states viz. West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Assam. It found that 25% of POCSO listings were romantic cases. Of them, 47% involved girls between the ages of 16 and 18 where acquittals were the norm. Thus, parliamentarians should revisit the decision to raise the threshold of consent to 18. This move will solve half the problem associated with the wrongful use of the POCSO Act.