Amend POCSO Act to protect rights of minors, say doctors

Senior obstetrics and gynaecologists from across the country have called for amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The doctors said that though certain provisions in the Act are important, mature adolescents choosing to engage in sexual activity must not be criminalised. They said that it should not be mandatory for doctors to reveal the identities of their patients who are under the age of 18. The doctors were speaking on a range of sexual and reproductive health issues at a conference organised by the Mumbai Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society (MOGS) in the city.

According to senior obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr. Anahita Chauhan, lawmakers need to acknowledge the importance of consent. She said that medical practitioners are looking to maintain the rights of their patients. Dr. Chauhan said, “Patients come to us with accidental pregnancies and infections and they are often scared. We must protect the rights of girls between the age of 16 and 18 who want to be sexually active.”

The doctors demanded that mature adolescents, who mutually choose to have sex, must not be criminalised for a desire that is natural. Dr. Jaydeep Tank, president of MOGS, said, “The POCSO Act discriminates against adolescents who are mature enough to make sexual decisions. Surveys have revealed that adolescents do have sex. Criminalising a large section of the population for engaging in something natural is unfair.”

The doctors said that they were often caught in the contradictions between the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the POCSO Act, and demanded that confusions between overlapping laws be put to an end.

Dr. Basab Mukherjee said, “There is a confidentiality clause in the MTP Act, under which we are supposed to protect the identity and other details of the person. It is after the age of 18 that provisions in the MTP Act start getting enforced. The exact opposite happens in the POCSO Act. One is supposed to reveal details to the authority, which in most cases are the police or shelter home authorities.”

Dr. Mukherjee said, “We need to understand that sex is not restricted to the age of 18 only. Both the MTP Act and POCSO Act are different shades of grey and there are junctures where they overlap. The age of 18 is too high and it must be brought down to 16. Consensual sex between matured adolescents must be kept out of the criminal purview and mandatory reporting of identities has to be worked on.”

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Printable version | Oct 13, 2021 3:18:16 AM |

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