Teenage love as part of POCSO

February 21, 2022 | 05:14 IST

Teenage love as part of POCSO

In the past, children were too often considered property. Looking back over the past few decades, however, we have witnessed many progressive and protective laws protecting our children’s childhood and humanity as a whole. In the area of ​​Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO) 2012 is one of such landmark laws enacted in India on November 14, 2012 to protect the best interests and the well-being of our children. This is an excellent piece of legislation as it recognizes almost all known forms of child sexual abuse as a punishable offence.

Most importantly, the law is gender-neutral legislation. It defines a child as anyone under the age of 18. A reading of the statement of objects and motives of the POCSO Act clearly shows that it is intended to protect children from the crimes of sexual abuse, sexual assault and harassment, pornography, etc. in accordance with Article 15 of the Constitution of India. Although a decade has passed since the ratification of this law, studies in this area are very limited and sketchy.

However, it has been observed that a wide range of cases filed under the POCSO Act appear to be those arising from Complaints/FIRs filed by families of teenage boys and girls who have a loving and passionate relationship with each other. with the others. . The scheme of the law clearly shows that it did not intend to bring within its scope or its limits, cases of nature where the teenagers or teenagers involved were in a romantic relationship. Punishing a teenager who enters into a relationship with an underage girl by calling him a “delinquent and criminal” has never been the objective of the POCSO law.

One of the reasons for the increasing rate of cases filed under the POCSO could be that children who are in their late teens and at a stage of exploring their sexuality are engaging in the act of relationships consensual sex and invariably falls within the scope of the Juvenile Judicial Framework. From a legal point of view, it is clear that there is no consideration for the sexual rights of children because they are legally below the age of consent for any form of sexual engagement until they are reach the age of 18. Let us remember, however, that a child is like any other human being and that he has inalienable rights. This includes their right to fall in love with a person of their choice. As adults who have gone through the teenage phase ourselves, we are all aware of how the young mind confuses/confuses the craving for love. The magic of first love for the young spirit is the belief that it has come for eternity and has no end. Trying to talk to teenagers about the facts and realities of life doesn’t bother them much when they’re lost in their own world of dreams and fantasies.

Studies have shown that mandatory sentences result in fewer convictions and have no deterrent effect because when judges perceive the sentence for the offense to be too harsh as in the case of POCSO, they prefer to acquit the accused instead. After sentencing, a separate sentencing hearing is held, in which aspects such as whether the accused is a first-time offender with reform potential, or is the sole breadwinner, the accused’s age, family history, seriousness of the offence, etc., are taken into account.

The lack of an opportunity to consider these factors, and instead prescribe a mandatory sentence as in the POCSO case, causes many judges in some cases to acquit the accused rather than allow his young and young life to s stop abruptly. Exploring one’s sexuality and engaging in sexual acts with the opposite sex are normal developmental processes for adolescents, aren’t they? In India, however, the whole aspect of adolescent love relationships is colored by the complex interplay of socio-cultural phenomena.

In a move in the right direction, the Allahabad court last week granted bail to a defendant under POCSO for impregnating a minor saying the law had no intention of bringing under its aegis the love affairs between teenagers.

The courts of Goa must take note of this judgment and now look into this aspect of “Teenage Love”. It probably makes little or no sense to us as adults. But it is high time to stop looking at this phenomenon with our tinted glasses and to accept reality. It is unfortunate that many young people in the past were convicted on this charge and their lives were torn apart because neither the court nor any of its officers were able to understand the love between two young lovers : many of whom gave birth to children as in the case decided by the Allahabad court.

The Goa Juvenile Court, which hears and adjudicates many of these cases, must take due account of this and use the reasoning as set forth by the judgment of the Allahabad High Court. Advisers, NGOs and defense lawyers must also guide the courts in the right direction with the “best interests of the child” in mind. The lesson from the recent Allahabad court judgment is to tackle child sexual abuse (CSA) without punishing teenage lovers, which can in fact be as enduring and mature as any adult love. Teenage relationships can have unique challenges, but with commitment and communication, they can stand the test of time like any other relationship.

(The author is a social scientist and a seasoned criminal lawyer).

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