Conflict between IPC(Indian Penal Code) and POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences ) :
Colonial-era Indian Penal Code (IPC) condoning sexual intercourse and exploitation of a 15-year-old child ‘wife’ has been brought to the Supreme Court’s attention.
An exception to Section 375 (rape) in the IPC allows a man to go scot-free despite having sex with his 15-year-old ‘wife’.
This exception ensures that he will not be charged with rape even though child marriage is a crime.
Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi, through his organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan, appealed to the Supreme Court for help to end this “statutorily-backed” crime against children.
In a petition before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, the organisation said an estimated 47 per cent of children in India were married off before they turned 18, according to the United Nations.
The illegal practice was a serious deterrence to the physical, social, psychological and moral well-being of children.
The petition said the IPC condones the rape of a 15-year-old by her husband despite the fact that the more recent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 qualifies those aged below 18 as ‘children’.
POCSO has specific penal provisions against ‘penetrative sexual assault’ and ‘aggressive penetrative sexual assault’ on children below 18.
Section 6 of the Act enunciates the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault as rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years to life imprisonment. Mr. Satyarthi wants the apex court to clear the anomaly in law. The IPC terms children as those aged under 15 years while POCSO terms children as those aged under 18.
Despite being a child by definition (under the age of 18), provisions of POCSO are not applied. The benefit of a Special Act (POCSO) is not afforded to children when they are in married relationship but over the age of 15. Therefore, a child’s status as a child till she attains the age of 18 is denied to her once she is forcefully or otherwise wed.
The SC direction:
The apex court directed the government to address the issue within four months. The Bench asked Mr. Satyarthi to approach the court on the same grounds for immediate resolution if he is not satisfied with the government’s response.
What is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 :
POCSO Act was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children. It defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography.