RS passes Bill including death penalty for child abuse

With members across party lines supporting a stricter law against child abuse, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the bill for amending the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 provides for stringent punishment including life imprisonment for using children for pornographic purposes.

The new law is expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to the strong penal provisions in it. It intends to protect the interests of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensure their safety and dignity.

There has been a rise in crimes against children in the country in recent years. It is estimated that 1.6 lakh cases of child abuse are pending in 31 states and union territories (UTs).

As per official data, about 12,609 rape cases were registered under the POSCO this year.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was moved by Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani.

Participating in the discussion on the bill, all members of the Upper House supported the amendments with a few of them expressing reservations over the death penalty clause.

Congress leader Vivek Tankha said that it was good that the government had brought the amendments but much more has to be done to ensure that children are safe.

RJD member Manoj Jha expressed concern over the low conviction rate and high pendency of cases.

Speaking on the bill, Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan supported it but said, “Only amendments won’t solve the problem. The most important thing is time-bound investigation, prosecution and proportionate compensation should be brought in the rules.”

While supporting stringent laws, TMC member of Parliament Derek O’Brien shared his traumatic experience as a 13-year-old boy and urged celebrities, cricketers and people in public life to speak up about such incidents.

“I would like and urge more people especially in public life, if you have been sexually abused or harassed as a child, please come up and speak about it,” the TMC legislator said.

Replying to the members on the bill, Minister Smriti Irani said the government was taking all steps to ensure that children and women are safe in the country. She said that the government had sanctioned 1,023 fast-track courts particularly for dispensing cases which are pending under POCSO and for women who have been raped.