The country will have for the first time a comprehensive law to deal exclusively with sexual offences against children providing for a stringent punishment up to ten years' jail term, which may even extend to life imprisonment.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by minister of women and child development Krishna Tirath in the Rajya Sabha today. It will now be sent to the standing committee.
"Sexual offences against children are not adequately addressed by the extant laws. A large number of such offences are neither specifically provided for nor are they adequately penalised," the statement of objects of the bill said.
While the bill has legalised consensual sex with a person aged between 16-18 years, it has to be considered whether the consent for such act has been obtained by use of violence, force, intoxicants, drugs and deceit.
This law will cover all new aspects of sexual offences against children not covered by any other existing law.
Defining what constitutes these offences, the proposed legislation aims at protecting children against penetrative sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography and also provide for establishment of special courts for speedy trial of such offences.
The bill provides for treating sexual assault as "aggravated offence" when it is committed by a person in position of trust or authority over a child including a member of the security forces, police officer, public servant, management or staff of a children's home, hospital or educational institution.
As per the bill, aggravated penetrative sexual assault against a child victim may lead to rigorous imprisonment for not less than 10 years. The bill has provision to extend the penalty to imprisonment for life, including fine.
Sexual assault also includes fondling the child in an inappropriate way which will invite a penalty of minimum three years in jail.
There will be an obligation on the media, studio and photographic facilities to report such cases to the police and failure to do so will attract punishment which may extend up to six months imprisonment and fine.
There is a special provision in the bill preventing abuse of children for pornographic purpose or possessing pornographic material involving children.