POCSO act becomes gender neutral

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The Centre has proposed to amend the POCSO Act and make it gender-neutral, said the Ministry of Women and Child Development, following the recent ordinance approved by President Ram Nath Kovind that provided death penalty for rape of girls under the age of 12.

“The government has always strived to develop gender-neutral laws. The government has proposed amendment in the POCSO Act to seek justice for survivors of child sexual abuse,” tweeted the WCD Ministry on April 26.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi on Wednesday replied to a petition circulated on Change.org by a filmmaker and activist which pointed out that “male child sexual abuse is an ignored reality in India”.

“Another much neglected sphere of child sexual abuse is male survivors. Child sexual abuse (CSA) is gender neutral. Boys who are sexually abused as children spend a lifetime of silence because of the stigma and shame attached to male survivors speaking out. It is a serious problem and needs to be addressed,” she said in her response to the petition initiated by filmmaker Insia Dariwala.

Gandhi added that a study on male survivors of child sexual abuse would be conducted as well.

Such a study was last conducted in 2007 by the WCD Ministry that focused on child sexual abuse, where it was learnt that 53.2 per cent of children had been subject to one or more form of sexual abuse. Of this, 52.9 per cent were boys.

In 2017, Gandhi had instructed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to look into the issue.

The new ordinance on rape amended the criminals laws and called for death penalty as punishment to perpetrators for sexually assaulting girls below 12. Further, the ordinance stated that new fast-track courts be set-up exclusively for cases falling under the category along with several new provisions.

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