The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved a watershed bill to protect children below the age of 16 years against sexual offences aimed at speedy trail through special courts and having a legal regime at par with the best international practices.
The bill to be introduced in the ongoing budget session defines sexual assault against children in five categories.
Penetrative sexual assault has been defined as any sexual crime with a jail term of minimum seven years that can be extended up to life imprisonment.
Second is the aggravated penetrative sexual assault, where the accused is a person, who should have protected a child such as a police officer, hospital staff, school functionary and a family members or a relative, turns his or her tormentor.
This provision is also applicable where a child loses his mental balance because of the sexual assault or is inflicted with HIV or another other life-threatening disease and covers differentially abled children, also. Punishment for the second category is minimum 10 years of jail extended up to life imprisonment.
Third is sexual assault, where there is no penetration and jail term prescribed is three to five years.
The fourth is aggravated sexual assault committed by a person, who should have protected the child and have a jail of five to seven years. Fifth is sexual harassment punishable with maximum of three years of jail or fine or both.
The proposed law, which also provides protection to children against pornography abuse, shifts the onus of proving oneself innocent from the prosecution to the accused, as applicable in many women-related laws.
“It is a good law but lacks provisions for proper rehabilitation of the victims,” said Bharati Ali of an NGO HAQ: Center for Child Rights.
The women and child development ministry, which has piloted the bill, has signed an MoU with all states to implement the National Child Protection Scheme, for which the finance minister has provided more than R200 crore in the budget.