No special courts, child-friendly spaces for child abuse victims
Srinagar, Apr 17: Successive governments over the years have failed to implement several laws protecting women and children against sexual harassment.
Official sources said that one such law is protection of children against sexual offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) was enacted by the government of India in 2012.
It aims to offer protection to children (individuals below the age of 18) from sexual violence including sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the inclusion of children in pornography.
The law has been extended throughout the country except in J&K.
“The primary reason as to why this law couldn’t be extended to the state is because child protection mechanism in still in infancy,” an official said.
As per the officials, there are no special courts or child-friendly spaces for child sexual abuse victims.
The offenders are tried before regular criminal courts, they said. He said that Act also prevents “re-victimization” by adopting child-friendly measures. “The victim doesn’t have to face police personnel or judiciary at the time of testifying,” he added. The State Welfare Department has proposed to establish Child Welfare Committees under Integration Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) in all districts. The initiative aims to provide relief and ensure the protection of vulnerable children. However, the proposal is yet to be implemented on the ground. Similarly, most of the government departments in Jammu and Kashmir have failed to constitute Internal Complaint Committees (ICCs). The government had directed several times to administrative heads of all departments to constitute ICC to address all complaints of sexual harassment at workplaces and submit action taken report to the government with specific recommendations, in accordance with rules.
General Administration Department (GAD) issued orders several times, says that administrative heads of their respective departments shall constitute committees at the state, divisional and district levels.
However so far, most of the government departments have failed to constitute the ICCs despite directed by the government.
Over the years, there have been number of times, when women faced harassment at work places.
But most of the time action was not been taken. “We need committees in every college in Jammu and Kashmir,” a woman professor teaching in one of the colleges in Srinagar, said. She said her colleague faced harassment once in the college. “When she complained to the principal, she was told that she should instead remain silent as there exists no sexual harassment committee, which could investigate the incident,” the official said.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted by the central government on December 9, 2013, and under Section 4 (1) of the act, every head of the department is required to constitute an ICC to check sexual harassment at workplace.
The law says every institution or organization where 10 or more women work, there should be an ICC to check cases of sexual harassment against women.
Under this law, sexual harassment’ includes, physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually colored remarks or showing pornography. It prescribes strict punishment, including termination of service, for the guilty. (KNS)