Sexual crimes against children have in recent times taken centre stage with Goa especially being subject to a maelstrom of untoward events against children.
COVID-19 seems to have brought along with it an additional burden of an increase in new forms of cybercrimes being inflicted on young impressionable minds.
The reliance on information technology and devices employed to access the internet for educational or recreational purposes has put children at a greater risk than ever before.
With this in mind, the Child Rights Commission has begun assessing the last ten years after the enactment of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO).
Early findings reveal that very little has been done in terms of protecting children from becoming victims again and rehabilitating them.
Most perpetrators get off scot-free in many POCSO cases, leaving the victims in a quandary. Peter F Borges, Chairperson of the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says the judicial system takes far too long to bring the abusers to justice.
Meanwhile, the victims have made a life for themselves and having to recall the past episodes at a later stage can be equally trauma-inducing. It’s no wonder that victims themselves shy away from seeking justice.
The lack of support shown to the victims and their families leads to them turning hostile and becoming unwilling to cooperate.
For now, the law is but a superficial change with no concrete results. The required support services need to be extended to children, a great deal of emphasis should be on restorative care and justice for the victims and, most importantly, the perpetrators must be penalised for their crimes.
The Commission has asked for the following changes to be made to ensure that POCSO is put into effect in the best way possible.
Notification of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020
Although the rules were notified by the Ministry of Women and Child Development on March 9, 2020, they are not notified and enforced in the state even now. This notification of these rules is vital to ensure child victims of sexual abuse in Goa receive justice.
The non-implementation of the rules is hindering the service delivery for POCSO victims in the state of Goa. (Action – Directorate of Women And Child Development Department)
Notification of the Model Guidelines under Section 39 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
These guidelines are necessary for non-governmental organisations, professionals and experts or persons having knowledge of psychology, social work, physical health, mental health and child development to be associated with the pre-trial and trial stage to assist the child.
The formulation and notification of these guidelines, which are important to assist the child with a wide range of supportive services at all the stages of the trial, especially by empanelling support persons, experts, etc, have been pending since 2012. (Action – DWCD)
Notification of Vulnerable Witness Deposition Centre (VWDC) scheme based on the directions issued by the Supreme Court of India
This is so that accurate and reliable statements by the victims may be recorded without any trace of harassment.
The victims’ rights must be protected at all times, and they must have due recourse to justice. (Action – Home Department)
Amendments in Goa Victim Compensation Scheme to provide compensation to POCSO victims
Despite the law’s provision for compensation, POCSO victims have not received any interim or final compensation under the Goa Victim Compensation Scheme. (Action – Home Department)
Awarding of Compensation by Special Courts
Special Courts do not yet understand their powers to decide and grant how much the victim should be compensated (interim and final), using the provisions of Section 33 (8) of the POCSO Act. (Action – Home Department)
Appointment of Special Task Force for Monitoring POCSO
During the investigation phase by officers there have been found gaps, that is, when referring the victim to the child protection system.
This results in a poor trial of the case, justice and welfare measures are not for the victims.
The Constitution of a Special Task Force must be in compliance with the directions in the judgement by Supreme Court. (Action – Goa Police)
Adaptation and Implementation of Child Protection Policy (CPP)
Organisations involved with children, such as educational institutions, coaching and sports centres, NGOs, child care institutions, etc necessarily require a child protection policy.
This will help make sure organisations have measures on child abuse prevention in place. They will also have to create a system that enables the resolution of child abuse incidents.
The mandatory reporting obligation under the POCSO Act will come into play. Also, the authority will be given to a specified group of individuals within the organisation to address child abuse complaints and implement the policy.
That an organisation will deal with child abuse concerns in a just manner and accordance with the law, will promote confidence.
These will streamline procedures for dealing with child abuse incidents and mitigate arbitrary actions. (Action – Education Department, NGOs, Department of Sports and Youth Affairs, Department of Women and Child Development)