New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Friday approved amendments to the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, reported ANI. Addressing media, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said, “The Cabinet has approved death penalty in aggravated sexual offences under the POCSO Act.” (Also read: NALSA’s Victim Compensation Scheme be Followed in POCSO Cases: SC)

The Cabinet meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  The POCSO Act aims to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. According to the Act, any person below 18 is a child. To discourage sexual abuse of children, amendments were proposed seeking stringent punishment, including the death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault crime on a child.

The amendments were also proposed to protect children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities and disasters and in cases where they are made to attain early sexual maturity for the purpose of penetrative sexual assault.

Amendments have also been sought to address child pornography. Levying of a fine is proposed for not destroying/or deleting/ or reporting pornographic material involving a child. One can further be penalised with a jail term or fine or both for transmitting/propagating/administrating such material in any manner except for the purpose of reporting as may be prescribed and for use as evidence in court. Penal provisions have been made more stringent for storing or possessing any pornographic material in any form involving a child for a commercial purpose.

Earlier this year, the Women and Child Development Ministry had revealed that the Government was planning to amend the POCSO Act to make it gender neutral. On its Twitter handle, the WCD Ministry had said, “The Government has always strived to develop gender-neutral laws. The Government has proposed an amendment in the POCSO Act to seek justice for survivors of child sexual abuse.”

Minister Maneka Gandhi has also spoken about male survivors of abuse. She said, “A much neglected sphere of child sexual abuse is male survivors. Child sexual abuse (CSA) is gender neutral. Boys who are sexually abused as children spend a lifetime of silence because of the stigma and shame attached to male survivors speaking out. It is a serious problem and needs to be addressed.”