In an attempt to provide justice to male child victims of sexual assault, the government led by PM Narendra Modi is planning to amend the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences0 Act. The development came just a few days after President Ram Nath Kovind approved the ordinance which provides the death penalty for rape of girls under the age of 12. Logging onto Twitter, the ministry claimed that the Centre has always in favour of making laws gender- neutral. “The government has always strived to develop gender-neutral laws. The government has proposed an amendment in the POCSO Act to seek justice for survivors of child sexual abuse,” the ministry said wrote on its official Twitter handle on Thursday.
The major decision to amend the POCSO Act came after Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi 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”. Responding to the issue posted by filmmaker Insia Dariwala, Gandhi said, “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.”
The minister also added that a study on male survivors of child sexual abuse would be conducted as well. In September 2017, Gandhi had ordered the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to look into the matter. The NCPCR held a conference in this regard in November 2017.
At present, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 provides strict punishment for perpetrators of rape including the longer jail term for all rapists. Guidelines for speedy probe and trial of rape cases have also been issued. The minimum punishment for rape has been extended from 7 years to 10 years, which can also get extended to life imprisonment. The minimum punishment for girls below the age of 16 years has been extended from 10 years to 20 years which can be extended to life imprisonment till the natural death of the convicted. Gang rapes of girls below the age of 16 will be awarded life imprisonment till death. The ordinance has also put restrictions on the bail for the convicted of raping girls below the age of 16 years — No anticipatory bail for those convicted in the rape of girls below 16 years of age.