Delhi: The Union Cabinet has approved for the amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 where child sexual assault will be punishable with death sentence . This was approved at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.

The cabinet approved amendments in sections 4, 5, 6, 9, 14, 15 and 42 of the POCSO Act. “The modification is made to address the need for stringent measures required to deter the rising trend of child sex abuse in the country,” the cabinet said in a statement.

Section 4 : The death penalty will apply to cases of aggravated penetrative sexual assault on children below 12 years of age. Section 4 of the POCSO Act, which deals with punishment for penetrative sexual assault, now prescribes a sentence that’s not less than seven years in jail and may be extended to life imprisonment as the maximum punishment. The proposed amendments increase minimum imprisonment to 10 years which may extend to imprisonment for life.

Section 6: Section 6 of the Act has been amended to read: “Whoever commits aggravated penetrative sexual assault shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life and shall also be liable to fine or with death”.

The death penalty will apply to cases of aggravated sexual assault, which refers to rape and gang rape.

The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and to safeguard their interests and well-being. The Act defined a child as any person below eighteen years of age. Certain sections of the Act, however, were not gender-neutral and applied only to female victims. The amendments seek to correct that and make the law gender-neutral as well.

Section 5: In cases of aggravated sexual assault, under section 5, the government also added a clause to include children sexually exploited in the course of communal or sectarian violence, or during a situation of natural calamity.

Child Pornography : The cabinet also approved an amendment to address child pornography. It proposed a fine for not destroying/or deleting/ or reporting pornographic material involving a child. The person can be penalized with a jail term or fine or both for transmitting/propagating/administrating such material in any manner except for the purpose of reporting it to the authorities.

This is an initiative to strengthen the entire POCSO architecture and also enhance it to ensure that medicines or hormones are not be abused to destroy the childhood of innocents, said Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while briefing about the Cabinet decisions.

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