Its exactly a year since the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) came into force on Childrens Day. But child rights activists and lawyers say what was envisaged as a stringent law to bring down cases of child abuse still has teething problems.
Doctors say there are no guidelines listing out the necessary steps that doctors need to take while examining child-victims.
A doctor at the forensic medicine department of AIIMS said,We always examine children under anaesthesia,as it is difficult to explain to a traumatised child the need for an examination. Though there are no government guidelines on the issue,we feel this is the only way to collect evidence.
Most Delhi government hospitals do not have sanctioned posts of paediatric anaesthetist. A gynaecologist at Bhagwan Mahavir hospital said,We face a lot of problems while examining victims. Often,parents get scared when we explain what a medical examination would entail. General anaesthetists are reluctant to take such cases as paediatric anaesthesia is a specialised branch.
Activists say lack of infrastructure support is another factor hampering the enforcement of POCSO.
In reply to RTIs filed by NGO Pratidhi in September this year,the Department of Health under the Delhi government said guidelines have been issued to all hospitals under the Delhi government that facilities such as ambulances are made available for victims and their families from 28-01-2013.
These are yet to materialise. Raaj Mangal Prasad of Pratidhi said,The Health department had said victims and their kin would get ambulances to return home after medical examination. The Act had directed the Health department to specify the roles of doctors in dealing with child victims. But no meeting of stakeholders has been organised so far to frame guidelines. There is a lot of confusion about who needs to do what,how the medical examination should be conducted and how the evidence should be preserved.
Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) chairperson Arun Mathur said,The DCPCR had framed some guidelines taking into account the recommendations of JJ Act and POCSO to protect children against child abuse. But these guidelines were never notified by the government. We have written repeatedly to different departments… to sensitise and train stakeholders and release guidelines,but very little has been done.
Child rights lawyer Anant Asthana said, How can recommendations like video recording of evidence and appointment of support persons for every child victim be followed without infrastructure? The Act has said special judges be appointed,every POCSO court have a special public prosecutor,and women officers handle cases. In the absence of new infrastructure,police officers and the judiciary are being burdened with additional responsibility of POCSO…