India’s Supreme Court on Thursday, July 25, agreed to screen awareness clips on sexual assaults on children in movie halls across India along with helpline numbers. This decision was taken while the apex court was trying to find a way to deal with the “alarming rise” in child rape cases in the country. This decision was taken as part of a whole host of suggestions made by Senior Advocate V Giri as an Amicus Curae or ‘friend of the court’, which also includes setting up a separate court to only deal with sexual offences against children effectively under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act within 60 days.
The bench consisting of the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi accepted the suggestion to give the issue some screen time in an attempt to educate the audience on child sexual abuse and the kind of legal assistance they can seek against it, for both parents and children. They have also said that this awareness should be extended beyond theatre promos as well, and be implemented at all schools and other public places.
While dealing with cases of child sexual assault, the court also found that forensic reports being delayed often created hurdles. "Collection of samples and preservation of the same are also of utmost importance,” said Giri “Forensic samples would become crucial in cases where the identity of the accused is seriously challenged. In many cases, the FSL Report takes between six to nine months from the time of registration of the crime.”
He suggested that the court put into place a special juvenile unit of the police under section 19 of the POCSO Act and that any complaint made or FIR filed in such cases, should be properly explained and broken down to the child with words they can understand and relate to. "It would be appropriate that a support person, preferably the one attached to the school where the child is studying, should be made aware of the process right from the beginning," he continued.
He also stressed that vulnerable witness court provisions which are typically given to someone who has an intellectual disability or has suffered through sexual assault, should be granted to the child, and that a presiding officer should be in a fit position to convey to the court what the child wants to say through a support person while being examined.
He stresses that at least one such court dedicated exclusively to protecting children against sexual abuse has to be set up in every district of the country, along with making sex education an intensive part of the school's curriculum to inform the children about offences under the POCSO Act.
Meanwhile, he says that giving medical care to the child is an absolute priority, along with accounting for the effects such traumatic experiences can have on a child’s mental health. He said, "In fact, the priority must be for affording the child physical and mental care. Information and data collected at the earliest point of time would be of vital importance."
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