A child abuse Bill is getting closer to reality, with the Cabinet set to consider a special law in the coming few weeks. Union minister for women and child development Krishna Tirath told HT that she had sought cabinet approval for the Bill.
“The Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not distinguish between adult and child victims, and we are very clear about the need to protect innocent children from sexual abuse of any kind,” she said.
Source say child abuse by those in a position of trust and authority, repeat offences, and abuse of children in especially vulnerable circumstances, are set to become more serious crimes with extra stringent punishments.
The new Bill is likely to have certain path-breaking features, according more gravity to sexual abuse by family, guardians, and others who live in the same house.
Abuse by police officers, within police stations, officers of the armed forces or other security forces, public servants, and by employees in jails, remand homes, protection homes, observation homes, hospitals and educational institutions, would all be categorised as "aggravated" offences, it is known.
The law, if passed by Cabinet and subsequently Parliament, will take an equally harsh view of sexual assault committed on a child in the course of communal or sectarian violence. Aggravated offences will attract a term of not less than five years and may extend to seven years.
The ministry has also proposed that the amount of fine that accompanies such offences be left to the discretion of the courts with no upper limit.
The category of aggravated offences would also include any abuse of a child below the age of 12 or is physically or mentally challenged. The proposed Bill further views the use of weapons, fire, heated substances, poison, corrosive substances, explosive substances or animal, to cause sexual abuse, as aggravated offences too.
"The inclusion of these terms is in itself an indicator that unfortunately such offences have been committed in the past," a senior ministry official said.
Similarly, sexually assaulting a child as a result of which he/she becomes pregnant, mentally ill, or unfit to perform regular tasks, gets infected with HIV or any other life-threatening or lifestyle-impairing illness, would be aggravated offence.