The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, which was passed by Parliament in May this year, came into force on Wednesday.

Under the Act, a child is defined as any person below the age of 18 and is gender-neutral.

More importantly, the Act provides precise definitions of different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.

The Act provides for stringent punishment, graded as per the gravity of the offence, with a maximum term of rigorous imprisonment for life for certain offences.

Union Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath told reporters on Wednesday: “In keeping with the best international child protection standards, the Act provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences. It also prescribes punishment for a person if he provides false information with intention to defame any person, including a child. Most importantly, the Act provides for child friendly procedures for reporting of offences, recording of evidence, investigation and trial. Also under Section 45 of the Act, the power to make rules rests with the Central government.”

The rules framed under the Act provide for qualifications and experience of interpreters, translators, special educators, and experts; arrangements for the care, protection and emergency medical treatment of the child; compensation payable to a child who has been the victim of a sexual offence; and periodic monitoring of the provisions of the Act by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

The rules rely on the structures established under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, to make arrangements for the care and protection of the child and to ensure that the person is not re-victimised in the course of investigation and trial.

Ms. Tirath said: “Another important addition is that as per the rules where a child is taken to a medical facility for emergency care, no magisterial requisition or other documentation may be demanded prior to treatment. The rules also lay down the criteria for award of compensation by the special court, which include the gravity of the offence; loss of educational opportunity or employment; and disability, disease or pregnancy suffered as a consequence. The compensation may be awarded at the interim stage as well as upon completion of trial.”

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