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Lok Sabha passes POCSO amendment bill which proposes stringent punishment to child molesters

By Vishal S

New Delhi, Aug 01: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019, (POCSO) which, among many other things, makes certain sexual offences against punishable with death. Cutting across party lines, members supported amendments to POCSO Act though some demanded that Bill be referred to the standing committee or select committee as it makes certain offences punishable with death.

Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani

Piloting the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said it aims at making offences against children gender neutral. The Bill, said Irani, would provide added legal protection to 39 per cent of population or 43 crore children, irrespective of whether they are a girl or boy.

Besides other things, she said, the Bill defines child pornography so that sexual predators indulging in such heinous crimes could be punished.

Regretting that 5,000 persons followed the child pornography site operated by a person, Irani said, "this is a matter of grave concern for the society. The site had even showed the rape of a minor girl, he added. Recalling a case wherein children were administered drugs and harmones to make them sexually active, she said, the law is aimed at providing stringent punishment to such offenders.

"We want to provide added protection to children...in rarest of rare cases death (penalty)," she added. Participating in the discussion, Su Thirunavukkarasar (Cong) suggested that since the bill has a provision for death penalty, it should be sent to a Parliamentary committee for further scrutiny.

[Derek O'Brien narrates how he was molested as a 13-year-old]

Rita Bahuguna Joshi (BJP) said the Bill will go a long way in bringing offenders against children to book. Kanimozhi (DMK) said that bill should be sent to select committee or standing committee as harsher punishment could deter people from reporting the crime.

While presiding over the proceedings, BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab pointed out to Irani that the Hindi version of the POCSO bill used the word "balakon", a term for young boys, while the English word "children" is gender neutral. To this, she responded that the legislative department of the government had vetted the bill and cleared it.

Rajiv Ranjan Singh of the JD(U) hailed the bill, saying it will curb the growing trend in the society toward such heinous crimes. He, however, suggested the government work to have special courts across the country and ensure speedy trial so that the cases of sexual crimes against children are taken to logical conclusion.

A short period of trial will also minimise the chances of accused influencing witnesses.

Citing a survey, he said the cases of sexual harassment against children have risen by 500 per cent. TMC's Satabdi Roy wondered if death penalty will deter criminals and asked the government to explain as to what it is doing to help victims.

Shiv Sena'a Vinayak Raut supported the bill and sought a time-bound trial for the accused. BSP's Danish Ali also backed the bill, saying he supports capital punishment for those convicted under this Act even though he is ideologically against death penalty.

[Child pornography to get new definition, proposed changes in POCSO Act. to come up in LS]

Danish Ali (BSP) said he supported the bill but was against the death penalty for juvenile. Hasnain Masoodi (NC) also extended support to the Bill stating that the proposed legislation was for the 10 per cent of the victims and that for the remaining 90 per cent there was a need to stregthen the prevention system.

"We have to strengthen the prevention mechanism," he said and added that it was high time to make stringent and effective law for protection of children.

Amid the oppostion to the death penaly for juvenile by some members, Nishikant Dubey (BJP) said the government has shown the power to come up with death penalty.

He also pitched for the need for awareness campaign in the society. Kalyan Banerjee (AITC) expresssed concern that in the media the identity of the victim and his/her family got leaked which he said should not happen. Pritam Munde (BJP) stressed on the rehabilitation of the victims.

OneIndia News with PTI inputs

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