Marriages helping secure acquittals in Pocso cases?
Case Study Stirs Debate On Review Of Age Of Consent
New Delhi: In as many as 90 cases registered under Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act over five years across district courts in Kerala, the reason for acquittal lay in the fact that the accused married the survivor and the latter testified to the same. At least three of these survivors who married the accused were just 15-years-old at the time of occurrence of the offence and three others were even younger. In around 68 cases, the survivor was in the age group of 16-17 years at the time of the occurrence of the offence.
At a consultation organised by voluntary organisation “Independent Thought” in the capital on combating child marriage and associated challenges Centre for Child Rights and the Forum Against Sexual Exploitation of Children (FACSE), shows that many acquittals in Pocso cases have happened as the accused and survivor were in a “romantic relationship”. This data brings focus on the issue of review of the age of consent debate in the context of Pocso as far as consensual sex between minors is concerned.
Based on data collected for 2012-15, it was revealed that out of 386 cases disposed of in Delhi and Mumbai, 92 cases (24%) ended in conviction. More than three-fourths of the disposed cases in Delhi - 286 cases (78%), were acquittals. Most acquittals in Delhi were in cases relating to children aged 16 to 18 years, whereas in Mumbai, it was in cases of children aged 13-15 years. Maximum acquittals where the accused/offender was ‘known’ to the child are cases of romantic relationship (39%), followed by cases where the accused/offender is a neighbour (25%), and cases where the accused/offender is a relative (19%).