Women And Child Development Minister Smriti Irani tabled a bill to amend Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in the Rajya Sabha today. The bill aims to tackle extreme cases of sexual violence against children and child pornography by making punishment more stringent and mandating death penalty for convicts of brutal sexual crimes against minors.

“…as there is a strong need to take stringent measures to deter the rising trend of child sex abuse in the country, the proposed amendments make provisions for enhancement of punishments for various offences so as to deter the perpetrators and ensure safety, security and dignified childhood for a child,” the amendment bill said. It also proposes a punishment of seven years imprisonment to convicts of child pornography and allows Centre to govern “the manner of deleting or destroying or reporting about pornographic material in any form involving a child to the designated authority.”

The amendment bill proposed by Irani approves punishment with imprisonment up to 20 years, which might extend to life imprisonment as well as fine to those committing penetrative sexual assaults on a child below 16 years of age. “Whoever commits aggravated penetrative sexual assault shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than 20 years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of natural life of that person and shall also be liable to fine or with death,” the bill said.

It calls for punishment of five or more years of jail term to those convicted of using a child for pornographic purposes. However, in cases of repeated conviction in similar crime of child pornography, the punishment would go up to 7 years and fine.

Data on crimes against minors says that an estimated that 1.6 lakh cases of child abuse are pending in 31 states and Union Territories (UTs). Government data reveals that a total of about 12,609 rape cases were registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act this year.

The Bill stated that the incidence of child sexual abuse cases is rising. “Children are becoming easy prey because of their tender age, physical vulnerability and inexperience of life and society,” it said.

Just a week back, Irani met Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi to discuss issues related to welfare of children according to a tweet she posted after meeting Satyarthi. On July 12, Satyarthi had praised Irani for the Centre initiating steps to make the law against child pornography more stringent.

“Defining child pornography under #POCSO is the 1st definitive step towards ending this crime. Congrats Smriti Irani and WCD Ministry. I wish India takes lead in demanding a legally binding UN convention against online child sexual abuse that I have been working on since last year,” Satyarthi had tweeted.

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