New Delhi: The Centre is planning to amend the POCSO Act to provide justice to male child victims of sexual assault, the Women and Child Development Ministry said, days after an ordinance promulgated by President Ram Nath Kovind provided the death penalty for rape of girls under the age of 12.
"The government has always strived to develop gender neutral laws. Government has proposed amendment in the POCSO Act to seek justice for survivors of child sexual abuse," it said on its official Twitter handle on Thursday.
WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi recently supported a petition on Change.org by filmmaker-activist Insia Dariwala, who said "male child sexual abuse is an ignored reality in India".
Replying to the petition, she said a first-of-its-kind study on male survivors of child sexual abuse would be conducted.
"Another much neglected sphere of child sexual abuse is male survivors. Child sexual abuse 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," she said in her response on the campaign website.
Gandhi said following the petition, she had in September 2017 instructed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to look into the issue.
The NCPCR held a conference in this regard in November last year.
"As per the recommendations that emerged from the conference, it was unanimously decided that there should be an amendment to the existing scheme for the victims of CSA to also include compensation for boys who have been sexually abused or raped," she said.
Earlier last week, President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated an ordinance to pave way for providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.
In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment was increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convict's "natural life".
The ordinance gained significance in the wake of huge outrage over Kathua and Unnao rape cases.
With this, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act stands amended.
According to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, new fast-track courts will be set up to deal with such cases and special forensic kits for rape cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term.
The measure also provides for speedy investigation and trial. The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months.
A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed. There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gangrape of a girl under 16 years.