A Bill to effectively deal with sexual offences against children is likely to be piloted in the next session of Parliament, Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said here on Sunday.
Addressing journalists on the sidelines of a consultation on law reforms and legislation for sexual offences against children hosted by the Tulir-Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse, Mr. Moily said the Law Ministry had come up with the second working draft of The Protection of Children From Sexual Assault Bill, 2010.
The draft, which is being circulated for feedback among the Ministries concerned, including the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, has been categorised into sections such as penetrative sexual assault and punishment thereof, procedures for recording statements of the child, designation of special courts and procedures and powers of such courts and recording of evidence.
Citing a 2007 Government of India study which revealed that 53 per cent of an estimated 420 million children below 18 years had undergone some form of sexual victimisation, Mr. Moily said the Centre was “totally convinced that a special law is mandatory” to effectively tackle the issue.
The Minister also stressed the imperative to “widen dialogue” for reformulating the existing laws and ensuring that the wisdom of the nation as such went into the process to make a new law for this section “succeed in Parliament and in courts.” At the same time, the law alone could not solve the problem and it was important to create a national movement founded on social awareness to prevent child sexual abuse.
On steps to tackle ‘honour' killings, Mr. Moily said the Law Ministry had referred to a Cabinet committee a set of proposals for amendments to certain laws, including Section 300 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act and the Special Marriage Act.
On the demand for the use of Tamil as official language in the Madras High Court, Mr. Moily said it was for “the judiciary to take a view.”
Earlier, addressing the UNICEF-supported consultation, Mr. Moily spelt out as a central concern the deficiencies in the existing systems and processes integral to responding to cases of sexual violence against children. He pointed out that as criminal law provided for strict interpretation, the lack of definition of certain categories of offences often resulted in an act of violence not being treated as a crime.
“The concern has to be addressed so that the gap between disclosure and reporting can be narrowed and effective justice provided to children who are affected by such crimes,” he said.
Lov Verma, Member-Secretary, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), said the laws on child sexual abuse needed to go beyond the penetrative nature of assault. He also called for making some offences gender-neutral to effectively deal with cases where boys were victims of sexual offences.
Thomas George, Officer-in-charge, UNICEF Field Office, Chennai, said the core group of resource persons involved in the consultation should not disintegrate when a law eventually was framed but should continuously monitor the implementation.
Advocate Geeta Ramaseshan, Tulir secretary Vidya Reddy and Trustee Andal Damodaran led the consultations.