Can a lawyer be appointed to represent a child for child sexual abuse cases?

Normally, for crimes, a lawyer representing the government leads the case. The child’s family can appoint their own lawyer who will act under the government lawyer’s instruction as per section 301 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. If the child’s family cannot afford to hire their own lawyer, they can get a lawyer free of cost from the government.

I am 16 years old and my uncle sexually abuses me. Can he be punished under the child sexual abuse law?

Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on sexual and physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

Yes, if your uncle has sexually abused you, then he can be held liable under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO). This law protects children who live in a shared household with people who are related through:

  • blood relationships; or
  • marriage (or in the nature of marriage); or
  • adoption; or
  • family members living as a joint family.

Can I rescue a child who I know is being sexually abused?

Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on sexual and physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

If you believe a child is being sexually abused, it is best that you call the authorities who will take quick action against such an incident as there may be a chance that you may also get in harm’s way while trying to rescue the child. You can refer here to see how you can report cases of child sexual abuse.

When does the medical examination take place for a child who has been sexually abused? How is a medical examination supposed to be done?

Section 27 of The Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 along with section 164A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 lays out the guidelines for the medical examination of a child. A child has to be examined for legal purposes by a registered medical practitioner within twenty-four hours of receiving the information about the offence. The child can be examined even if an FIR has not been registered.

  • The child should be okay with getting examined and she must be examined within 24 hours.
  • The doctor who examines the child should make a report with complete details and conclusions, and also record the exact time at which the medical examination had started.
  • A woman doctor has to examine a child, if it is a girl.
  • The parent or any other person the child trusts must be around when the doctor is examining the child.
  • If no one is available, then the hospital in-charge has to appoint someone who will be around during the examination.

Can news channels and papers publish details of children who are victims of sexual crimes?

No, the news channels, papers and other forms of media are not allowed to post any information which might reveal the name of the child or any such detail that might affect the child’s reputation.1

In case a news channel publishes such information, the owner of the channel will be held responsible along with the employee who revealed the information. Both the owner and the employee can be punished with jail time between 6 to 12 months and/or fine.

However, if the Special Court is of the opinion that revealing such details might benefit the child or in some way, be in his interest, then it can allow the media to publish such details as it may record in writing.

  1. Section 23, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.[]

What will happen if a child sexually harasses another child?

If it is a child who has committed a crime under this law, he or she will be dealt with under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (“JJ Act”). Section 2(13) of the JJ Act defines “child in conflict with law” as a child below eighteen years of age who is accused of or who has committed an offence. The child should not have reached eighteen years of age on the date of commission of such offence.

If there is uncertainty whether a person is a child, section 94 of the JJ Act gives the Juvenile Justice Board the power to determine the person’s age. However, it is important to note that under section 82 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 a child under the age of 7 years cannot be punished for crimes under this law or any other law.

Can a woman be punished for sexually harassing a child?

Yes, a woman can be punished under this law for sexually harassing a child. The law is gender-neutral with respect to people committing the crimes as well as the victim.1

  1. Chapter II, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.[]

If a man rapes a girl child, which law will he be punished under?

He can be punished for an act of rape under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”) or the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) law. While choosing which law to charge him under, the law with the higher degree of punishment for the offence of rape will be used. This is applicable to all cases where there is a punishment given not only in IPC, but in POCSO. So the offence with the higher punishment will be used and he will be punished under that.

When the Court grants my child compensation for sexual abuse, how is the amount decided?

Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on sexual and physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

The Special Court will decide the amount of compensation for the child while passing the final order based on the following1:

  • The type of abuse faced by the child.
  • The severity of the mental and physical harm faced by the child.
  • The costs incurred for medical treatment of the child.
  • Loss of employment opportunity, educational opportunity and absence from school because of the mental trauma, investigation, injuries on the body and any other reason.
  • Pregnancy of the child due to the incident or whether the child has contracted an STD (Sexually Transmitted disease) or HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).
  • Any kind of physical or mental disability resulting from the incident.
  1. Chapter VII, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.[]

Will I be punished for not reporting an incident of child sexual abuse that I am aware of?

Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on sexual and physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

Yes, if you knew that a child was being sexually abused, then you have a duty to report it. You can be held liable for not reporting the abuse in the first place and you can be punished under this law for a jail time of six months or a fine. Sexual abuse can make a child feel humiliated. The child may not be able to complain about the abuse himself/herself. Therefore, the law has placed the burden on the adults surrounding the child to report any suspicion of abuse. Any person to whom the child has confided about the abuse especially should report the crime. You can report directly to the police/magistrate.