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India! Stop protecting child molestors!

Research has shown that if child molesters can get away with their crimes once, they will keep going until they are stopped. If older survivors of childhood sexual abuse can tell law enforcement officials about their experiences, then molesters can be stopped before they hurt more children. By unreasonably imposing a limitation period of three years for reporting a crime, the law protects active child abusers. And older victims of childhood sexual assault can do nothing but simply watch their abuser molest many more children until one brave child emerges to pursue justice under POCSO.

In this context, it is interesting to note that even the Ministry of Women and Child Development is painfully aware of how the anomalies in the two sets of law simply grant a free pass for serial child sexual abusers without the slightest iota of accountability. On October 16, 2018, the Ministry issued a notification which clarified,

“Now any victim, at any age, can complain the sexual abuse faced by him/ her as a child.”

However, subject matter experts believe that this notification is not to be mistaken to mean that POCSO would become retrospectively applicable to sexual assault victims prior to 2012. At best, they argue that the notification clarifies that a person who is an adult today can report an offence under POCSO if such an offence was committed after POCSO came into effect. I disagree. POCSO was always clear that there was no time-bar whatsoever on a victim for bringing an action under its provisions. Therefore, there was no need for a separate notification to make this clear!

Besides, the notification itself was a result of the efforts of Purnima Govindarajulu,who had unsuccessfully tried to register a complaint against her abuser after a delay of 40 years. Purnima is a survivor of sexual abuse prior to 2012. It was pursuant to her efforts that the notification was brought about. So, the clarification was brought about to address the problems of sexual assault victims prior to 2012.

Therefore, the clarification should be read to mean that all sexual assault victims can report their cases (even those assaulted prior to 2012) under POCSO provisions. If by way of the clarification, the Ministry allowed older victims to file a complaint under POCSO, then by so allowing it, the Ministry also sent a message to the investigating officers that all investigations about the complaint should be conducted under POCSO provisions. By extending this logic further, it would simply mean that the courts then would then have to decide the matter investigated under POCSO provisions within the framework of POCSO itself (and other applicable laws).

Source: Barandbench

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