Govt to bring in Bill to check child sexual abuse



New Delhi: Government on Monday proposed to bring in a comprehensive legislation soon to prevent sexual abuse of children that will have provisions for stringent punishment for such offences.

In her address to joint sitting of both houses of Parliament, President Pratibha Patil said the government "proposes to introduce a bill regarding protection of children from sexual offences".

The new law will cover all new aspects of sexual offences against children not covered elsewhere with provision for stringent punishment.

Once through, this law will take precedence over any other existing law.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi was keen to see the bill through and had written to Women and Child Development (WCD) minister Krishna Tirath last year asking her to hasten the pace of the legislation focusing on sexual abuse of the children, sources said.

Amid reports of differences between ministries, she had asked the WCD ministry to coordinate with the Law Ministry which had already prepared a draft bill on similar lines.

The proposed legislation aims at protecting children against offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography and provide for establishment of special courts for trial of such offences.

The punishment for penetrative sexual assault has been proposed as at least five years in jail and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000. Sexual assault also includes fondling the child in an inappropriate way which will invite a penalty of minimum three years in jail.

There is a special provision preventing abuse of children for pornographic purpose or possessing pornographic material involving children. There will an obligation on media, studio and photographic facilities to report such cases and failure to do so will attract punishment.

To prevent misuse of this law, there is deterrent factor on false complaints and false information leading to six-month jail term.

There will be set procedure for media on reporting that would bar giving details of the victim and accused children's family or personal details or any form of reporting that can lead to their identification. Besides, it proposes special courts and more sensitive ways in dealing with crime against children.

In her address, Patil also touched upon the issue of protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace.

"The Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill has also been introduced in Parliament," Patil said.

PTI