The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act), was enacted to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and to provide a childfriendly system for the trial of these offences. The Act provides for seven specific sexual offences against children and stipulates child-friendly legal procedures that must be adhered to during investigation and trial. Under the POCSO Act, the term “child” has been defined to mean “any person below the age of eighteen years” . The Act does not recognize sexual autonomy of children in any form. Children can also be held liable for committing sexual offences under the Act. As a result, sexual interactions or intimacies among or with children below the age of 18 years constitute an offence.
The aims and objectives of this Act were:
- To secure a child’s right to safety, security and protection from sexual abuse.
- To protect children from inducement or coercion to sexual activity
- To prevent exploitative use of children in prostitution and generation of pornographic material.
- To provide a comprehensive legislation to safeguard the interest of a child at every stage – reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences.
- To provide for establishment of special courts for sensitive and speedy trial
It made the law gender neutral and brought within its purview sexual assault of both girls and boys below the age of 18 years. It also widened the definition of sexual violence beyond the conventional peno-vaginal penetration to include crimes which did not amount to rape under the IPC. It also prescribed stringent punishment and many procedural safety measures to protect the child during investigation and trial.