Parliament approves bill providing death penalty for sexual assault against children

NEW DELHI, Aug 1: A bill seeking to provide the death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children and greater punishments for other crimes against minors was approved by Parliament, after it was passed by the Lok Sabha, on Thursday.
Piloting the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Women & Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said it aims at making offences against children gender neutral.
The bill, which was already passed by the Rajya Sabha on 29 July, defines child pornography, making it punishable.
Cutting across party lines, members supported amendments to the POCSO Act, though some demanded that the bill be referred to the standing committee or select committee as it makes certain offences punishable with death.
Seeking passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha, Irani said the bill “is not related to vote bank politics but to save the future of India.”
In an apparent reference to Congress MP Ramya Haridas, who raised the Unnao rape issue in the house, Irani said the bill should not be looked from the perspective of politics and should not be politicized for personal benefits.
Responding to Haridas, Irani said it was very unfortunate that when she was speaking some members who were supporting her were actually having fun.
She further said the courts of this country have even power to punish MLAs and MPs.
The bill, said Irani, would provide added legal protection to 39 percent of the population or 43 crore children, irrespective of whether they are girls or boys.
Besides other things, she said, the bill defines child pornography, so that sexual predators indulging in such heinous crimes could be punished.
Expressing regret that 5,000 persons followed the child pornography site operated by a person, Irani said, “This is a matter of grave concern for the society. The site had even showed the rape of a minor girl.”
Recalling a case wherein children were administered drugs and hormones to make them sexually active, Irani said the law is aimed at providing stringent punishment to such offenders.
“We want to provide added protection to children… in rarest of rare cases death (penalty),” she added.
Replying on the bill, Irani assured that under the witness protection scheme, all measures, such as doing threat assessment of the victim and witness and, if required, even changing their identity, were taken to ensure their safety.
On if a juvenile is involved in sexual offence against children, the minister said the cases come under the Juvenile Justice Act and the death penalty could be given only if the criminal is above 16 years of age and the juvenile justice board finds that the criminal has an adult mind.
The minister acknowledged that the rate of conviction in sexual offences is very slow, and informed that under the Nirbhaya Fund, 1023 fast-track courts will be established across the country and 18 state governments have already been taken on board by the government.
She also said that a national database for such cases has also been started, and about 6.2 lakh sexual offence cases were registered in that base.
Sharing the details of awareness programme among children, the minister said the CBSE will carry out programmes in schools across the country to make children aware about good and bad touch.
She said more than 40,000 teachers will also be trained for the same. (PTI)