New POCSO rules notified
The Union government has notified the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020 which enables implementation of recent amendments to the Act under which provisions of punishment for child abuse has been made more stringent. Some of the significant additions in the new rules include provision of mandatory police verification of staff in schools and care homes, procedures to report sexual abuse material (pornography), imparting age-appropriate child rights education among others.
- For crackdown on child pornography, the rules state that "any person who has received any pornographic material involving a child or any information regarding such pornographic material being stored, possessed, distributed, circulated, transmitted, facilitated, propagated or displayed, or is likely to be distributed, facilitated or transmitted in any manner shall report the contents to the special juvenile police unit (SJPU) or police, or the cybercrime portal".
- The report shall include the details of the device in which such pornographic content was noticed and the suspected device from which such content was received including the platform on which the content was displayed.
- Under the rules, the state governments have been asked to formulate a child protection policy based on the principle of "zero-tolerance" to violence against children, which shall be adopted by all institutions, organisations, or any other agency working with, or coming in contact with children.
- The central government and every state government shall provide periodic training including orientation programmes, sensitisation workshops and refresher courses to all persons, whether regular or contractual, coming in contact with the children, to sensitise them about child safety and protection and educate them regarding their responsibility under the Act, the rules said.
- The Centre and state governments have been asked to prepare age-appropriate educational material and curriculum for children, informing them about various aspects of personal safety, including measures to protect their physical and virtual identity; and to safeguard their emotional and mental wellbeing, prevention and protection from sexual offences and reporting mechanisms, including Childline helpline services through toll free number - 1098.
- Orientation programme and intensive courses may also be organised for police personnel and forensic experts for building their capacities in their respective roles on a regular basis.
- Under the new rules, any institution housing children or coming in regular contact with children, including schools, creches, sports academies or any other facility for children must ensure a police verification and background check on periodic basis of every staff. The new POCSO rules became effective from March 9.
- The POCSO Act was enacted in 2012 to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interests of children at every stage of the judicial process.