POCSO says child sexual abuse be mandatorily reported: Why it’s a double-edged sword -Geetika Mantri and Saradha U
The spirit of mandatory reporting does not always translate to what survivors, faced with a hostile society and complicated legal system, need in reality.
The recent allegations of sexual abuse of children spanning years in many reputed Chennai schools have shocked many, but it has also revealed how difficult it is to navigate institutional abuse. In many cases, the survivors are now adults. This has also brought to light a contentious aspect of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act – mandatory reporting. Under section 19 of the Act, reporting of child sexual abuse (CSA) to law enforcement is mandatory for anyone who has an apprehension of such an act being committed or has any knowledge of such a case. This includes NGOs, educators, health professionals, parents, neighbours, and legal professionals who might be aware of such cases.
However, the criminal justice system is complex, and not child or survivor enabling. Even in the context of the Chennai schools, while FIRs have been registered and the cases do fall in the ambit of POCSO (which came into effect on November 14, 2012), survivors are understandably hesitant to come forward formally and be part of the legal process which can be long drawn and draining.
“The obligation to report is considered to be an acknowledgement of the prevalence and severity of child sexual abuse, and a means to prevent continuing violence,” said a paper authored by a team at Centre for Child and the Law (CCL) at NLSIU titled "An Analysis of Mandatory Reporting under the POCSO Act and its implications on the rights of Children" published with the National Law School in 2018. But on the other hand, experts argue that the mandatory reporting clause takes away agency from children and survivors, compels them to relive the trauma in an unfriendly criminal justice system, and increases the possibility of them being subjected to social stigma. It has also been found to hinder survivors’ access to medical aid as well as psycho-social intervention.
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TheNewsMinute.com, 9 June, 2021, https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/pocso-says-child-sexual-abuse-be-mandatorily-reported-why-it-s-double-edged-sword-150349