The Centre will amend the POCSO Act to provide death sentence for rape of boys under the age of 12, after the Ordinance promulgated by President Ram Nath Kovind provided the same punishment for rape of girls in this age bracket.
The Ordinance seeks to amend Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code to enhance punishment of rape and gang-rape of minors under two different age groups – “woman” under 12 years and 16 years.
Those convicted of rape of girls under 12 years would be awarded jail for 20 years or life imprisonment or death penalty, while those convicted of rape of girls under 16 years would be imprisoned for 20 years or for the rest of their life.
“A formal amendment to the POCSO Act making death sentence gender neutral is being moved. A draft Cabinet note is being prepared,” said a spokesperson of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The stricter punishments were proposed after the Ordinance led to an anomaly where similar crimes under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, – which deals with offences against boys and girls – had less severe punishments. While crimes against girls were enhanced through amendment to the IPC combined with a revision of Section 42 of the POCSO Act to imply that the stricter punishment in the IPC will apply, there was no mention of crimes against boys.
The official added that Sections 4,5 and 6 of the POCSO Act would now be amended to not only provide for death penalty for rape of boys under the age of 12 but also bring jail terms for sexual offences committed against boys under the age of 16 on par with those for girls in the same age category.
Activists have opposed death penalty for child sexual abuse on the grounds that it is not a deterrent and that efforts should be made to improve the conviction rate, which is as low as 24% in cases under the POCSO Act.
A formal amendment to the POCSO Act making death sentence gender neutral is being moved
Ministry of Women and Child Development.