November 1, 2019
COIMBATORE: CWC takes over cases related to child sexual offences and sees the victim through legal procedures, giving succour to the child in every possible way.
The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) addresses child-related offences and provides relief to the children in the battle to win justice. The five-member team formed in November 2018, under the Department of Social Defence, is responsible for the care and protection of children below 18 years in Coimbatore.
Priya Vijayakumar, CWC president, describes the committee’s role in child sexual abuse cases and enactment of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) act of 2012.
“All sexual abuse cases involving children below 18 whether it is child marriage or child sexual abuse come to us. Usually in Tamil Nadu, child marriage involves a minor girl and an adult man though the POCSO act is applicable for vice versa cases.”
Explaining the procedure adopted in such cases, she said, “The Department of Social Welfare has to file a first information report (FIR) against the man who married the girl. That girl will come to us for care and protection. So both CWC and social welfare department make sure that she gets justice. So that is one aspect of POCSO. It also applies to cases of eloping.”
Cases, involving abuse of a child whether girl or boy by father, brother, uncle or others, are reported to CWC under POCSO.
“In these cases both boys and girls are rape victims. POCSO also applies to molestation and heinous sexual assault. We do medical tests to confirm sexual intercourse, and of course, if pregnant there is no need. We also take the child’s testimony at a mainstream court where the magistrate will record it. It is a child friendly court with a counsellor. Sometimes the abused children continue to stay with the family but if they are unreliable, they are entrusted with us. We have counsellors in all our child care institutions, reception committees and child protection officers, who will accompany the child to meet the police,” said Priya.
What is the punishment under POCSO?
“According to the Act the period of imprisonment may range from one to 12 years depending on the severity of the case. Ironically child-related crimes have been on the rise since CWC’s inception in November,” she said. Priya Vijayakumar also clarified other POCSO laws that deal with consensual sex between minors.
“Yes they too are punishable under POCSO. Also, if the offender is an adult then POCSO applies,” says Priya.
What about Section 40 of POCSO which allows legal aid to victim but the attorney can only assist the public prosecutor?
“Yes he cannot directly fight the case, but if the child’s family needs legal aid the attorney can help on CWC’s request. Legal aid also comes in when police do not file case under POCSO. Also witnesses of child sexual abuse are punished for not reporting. Even now a couple is in jail because the wife did not report her husband,” said Priya. POCSO act allows pregnant victims to abort if it is within 20 weeks otherwise she delivers and gives away the baby for adoption through CWC.
“Almost all cases are like that. Even today the case of a 17-year-old pregnant girl has come to us. Most POCSO cases are reported from lower middle class families. The wealthier families probably hush it up, they have not come to us so far,” added Priya.