In a recent study on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act shows that among the 64 respondents from the police force, 98 per cent said there was a definite rise in the reporting of cases of sexual offences against children.
POCSO Act, the special act on sexual offences against children, was enacted in November 2012. A statewide study on the status of implementation of the Act was conducted and released in May this year by NGO Prerana. It surveyed 17 districts and 147 stakeholders, including police, hospitals, child welfare committees, special public prosecutors, Juvenile Justice Boards and community-based organisations.
Of these, an important stakeholder was the police force, responsible for executing the Act. The study surveyed 64 policemen ranging from the ranks of Superintendent of Police, inspectors, sub-inspectors and police naiks (constables). As many as 63 or 98 per cent of them, when asked about their impression of whether there was an increase in the reporting of cases of sexual offences against children in their jurisdiction, said there was a definite rise.
Among the reasons given for such a rise, 25 per cent of the respondents attributed it to increased social awareness on the issue. A further 18 per cent stated that cases regarding disputed love relationships involving children between 16 and 18, especially in instances where the girl’s parents are not in favour of the matter, were now being registered as cases under POCSO Act. Further, eight or 12 per cent respondents said with the arrival of POCSO Act, several actions that were not considered offences under any law were now counted as offences and hence, the rise in number. The law, which is gender neutral, has also expanded the definition of sexual abuse to include more forms of abuse.
Other reasons given by respondents for increase in the number of cases included rise to increased seriousness among the stakeholders and incentive offered under the Manodhairya scheme of the Government of Maharashtra, which encouraged people to register a complaint under the POCSO Act.
According to information given by the Minister of State for Women and Child Development to the Rajya Sabha in February 2018, a total of 1,04,976 cases were registered under the POCSO Act from 2014-2016. The total number of cases registered in 2014 were 34,449, which saw an increase to 34,505 in 2015 and 36,022 in 2016, of which 4,815 were in Maharashtra.