Stunned by the child killings in Noida, the Centre has decided to pass a stringent new law to protect children. It is also instituting a statutory body to hear their complaints and creating a database of children who have gone missing.
On Friday, Women and Child Development (WCD) Secretary Deepa Jain Singh sought information from all chief secretaries on missing children in their states. The WCD Ministry’s quest for a database was prompted by an HT report quoting a survey of the National Human Rights Commission that placed the annual figure of missing children at 45,000.
To accord legal force to child rights, the ministry has sent for the Cabinet’s approval the Offences Against Children Bill (2007). It will come up for discussion later this month and will lay down the rights of the child at home and in school.
The proposed law provides protection against sexual abuse as stipulated under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sexual offences in the draft bill include sodomy or manipulation of the child’s body for penetration, oral sex, fondling, display of private parts and exposing him/her to pornography. Even consensual sexual intercourse with a child under 16 will be an offence. The bill stipulates different punishments depending on the victim’s age. For sexual assault of children under 16, the penalty is imprisonment between 12 years and life with a fine. For sexually assaulting a 16- to 18-year-old, there is a jail term of six months.
Currently, the Indian Penal Code prescribes a maximum of 10 years in jail for sexually assaulting a child without defining the minimum punishment.
The WCD Ministry is also instituting the National Child Commission at Jasola, South Delhi. It will begin functioning in a couple of months, a senior WCD Ministry official said.