In the first-ever law aimed specifically at curbing child molesters, the government proposes to put the onus of proving innocence on the accused, in a landmark shift from the existing laws.
The draft Protection of Children from Sexual Assault Bill, 2010, says if a person is charged with sexually abusing a child, the prosecution will not have to prove him guilty. The accused will have to prove his innocence.
Until now, child abuse cases were all tried under provisions relating to rape or sexual assault.
“A government study in 2007 found 53 per cent of an estimated 420 million children surveyed had faced some form of sexual victimisation,” Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily told Hindustan Times. “This convinced us that a special law was mandatory to effectively tackle the issue.”
The bill also proposes special courts to try these cases.
A key provision of the bill, which awaits cabinet approval, is that the child should not have to face the accused while giving evidence. Other important clauses maintain that trials should be completed within a year, and that government servants or army officers found guilty could face life imprisonment.
Moily also said the conviction rate in child sexual assault cases was less than five percent and putting the onus on the accused would help in raising it.