The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 was passed to protect children from offences such as sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. Since India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1992, countries who signed the Convention are required to take measures to prevent children from being coerced into any unlawful sexual activity.
According to POCSO ACT, any person below the age of 18 years is defined as a “child”. There is a provision in the act to penalise any person who commits offences such as “sexual harassment”, “sexual assault”, “penetrative sexual assault”, and “aggravated penetrative sexual assault”.
A person is guilty of “sexual harassment” if he uses words or shows body parts to a child with sexual intention, shows pornography to a child or threatens to depict a child involved in sexual act through the media.
The penalty: Imprisonment for upto three years and a fine.
According to the Act, “Aggravated penetrative sexual assault is committed when a police officer, a member of the armed forces or a public servant commits penetrative sexual assault on a child. It also includes gang penetrative sexual assault and assault using deadly weapons, fire or corrosive substance. The Act also covers assault by staff of private hospital and staff of an educational institution if the child is in that institution.
Penetrative sexual assault” shall be considered aggravated if it injures the sexual organs of the child or takes place during communal violence or the child becomes pregnant or gets any other threatening disease or is below 12 years. “Penetrative sexual assault” also covers such offences where the offender is a relative of the child through blood or adoption or marriage or foster care or is living in the same household.
“Sexual assault” also includes touching of the vagina, penis, anus or breast of a child with sexual intent without penetration. If the child is between 16 and 18 years, it shall be considered whether the consent was taken against the child’s will or by threat or deceit.
The penalty is imprisonment between three to five years and a fine.
If “aggravated sexual assault” is committed under similar conditions as for “aggravated penetrative sexual assault” the penalty for the offence is imprisonment between five to seven years and a fine.
If a person uses a child in any form of media for the purpose of sexual gratification through representation of sexual organs of a child or using a child in sexual acts or other types of obscene representation, the penalty is rigorous imprisonment for upto five years and a fine. On subsequent convictions, the term of imprisonment is upto 7 years and fine.The Act also includes penalties for storage of pornographic material and abetment of an offence.