Mains Q & A 3 February 2023
Q1. Take into account the elements that the issue of child marriage in India is influenced by. How may child marriage be avoided by legislation, instruction, and government action? (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS I Social Empowerment
When a young child marries an older man, usually a girl under the age of fifteen, this social phenomenon is referred to as “child marriage.” The girl and boy’s parents plan the union of their two children as a second instance of child marriage.
In the world, India is home to one in three child brides, according to a new UNICEF report. It has also warned India about the increase in underage marriages caused by COVID-19’s opponents.
The key factors that enable gender inequality are poverty, illiteracy, the persistence of patriarchal relationships that encourage and assist it, as well as cultural perspectives that support the phenomenon’s survival.
Child marriage’s continued prevalence as a prevalent practise in India:
Lack of education: Lack of education is a significant factor in deciding the marital age. Approximately 45% of women with no schooling and 40% of those with only a basic education, per NFHS-4, were married before turning 18 years old.
Because they serve as immediate sources of revenue economically, child marriages are seen as a burden. A girl’s family is permitted to acquire a sizeable dowry when she is born, which will be paid to them when she marries.
Poverty: Compared to women from higher-income families, women from lower-income families often marry younger. Compared to 8% of women in the richest quintile, more than 30% of women from the two richest quintiles were married by the age of 18.
Social context: Child marriages are more common in Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, as well as rural areas.
Trafficking: Poor families are persuaded to sell their daughters into prostitution as well as marriage since the transaction offers the family of the girl substantial financial gain at the expense of the girl. They don’t give a damn about their girls, and the cash from their sale is used to support their sons.
Prevention measures for child marriage:
It is one of the most effective ways to stop minors from getting married.
Girls’ perspectives on the chances accessible to them in the community may change after they are able to complete their education.
Professional child protection workers:
One strategy to stop child marriages during the epidemic is to make sure that there is a strong cohort of child protection workers among important health workers.
India’s extensive network of community workers has excelled in this challenging period by ensuring that people have access to healthcare and other social security services.
If they were integrated into the system, these workers might keep an eye on young girls who were in danger of getting married too soon and take preventative action.
This could take the form of counselling to raise awareness and helping the afflicted family obtain benefits.
Programs to increase gender awareness:
The police and NGOs should participate in gender training programmes that cover the district. The convergent national policy, which entails the following, should be implemented by the Indian government in collaboration with NGOs and UNICEF.
Laws, assistance programmes, and phone hotlines should all be implemented in strict adherence to both their law and spirit. For instance, the Odisha Child Marriage Resistance Forum.
Empowerment of women:
Imparting Every girl child should have access to opportunities for higher education, employment, the development of practical skills, and the acquisition of defence mechanisms.
Primary and secondary education for girls should be promoted.
Getting the community involved:
Working with influential leaders, making pledges and vows, receiving counselling, using traditional and popular media, and taking vows.
Government relationships with civil society organisations and communities are crucial to promoting community mobilisation campaigns and mentality shifts. Collaborations with the media are also essential for bringing child marriage to the public’s attention.
Programs and industries should be coordinated at all levels, particularly when it comes to social protection and educational programmes.
In order to encourage people to treat their daughters and sons equally, the Indian government has already passed legislation like the Child Marriage Prohibition Act of 2006 and launched numerous initiatives including Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana.
Conditional cash transfer programmes focus more on the individual than the household, in contrast to the government’s emphasis on the home.
There are certain national initiatives that deal with maternity benefits, the survival of girls, and their education that either directly or indirectly address the problem of child marriage. Examples include Dhanalakshmi and the Rajiv Gandhi Program for Adolescent Girl Empowerment (SABLA)
The advantages of CCTs include the legal protection of marriage and the encouragement of females’ education.
In addition to assisting in the abolition of child marriage, transformative and well-resourced policies that improve access to health care, education, and overall girl empowerment will also contribute to the long-term improvement of health and education outcomes, assisting India in meeting its SDG targets by 2030.
Q2. To end child sexual abuse, the POCSO act’s scope needs to be increased, not widened. Comment on POCSO critically in light of recent court rulings. (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS I Women Empowerment
For the past nine years, India has tried to “protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography” under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). However, POCSO has not been without criticism or shortcomings. The recent Allahabad High Court ruling that a perpetrator’s penetrating sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy did not constitute an aggravated form of the crime appears to be per incuriam, that is, a decision reached without properly taking the law and the evidence into account.
The results of judgement:
The Allahabad High Court’s ruling that a particular act that constitutes a penetrative sexual act does not deserve the punishment imposed for its aggravated form would have an impact on lower courts hearing like cases.
The Supreme Court’s more liberal interpretation of the POCSO Act seems to have rectified the High Courts’ narrow interpretations of the terms “touch,” “physical contact,” and “skin to skin contact.”
In this context, the judgement in Sonu Kushwaha v. State of U.P. must be scrutinised because it seems to be based on a legal error.
The POCSO Act needs to be strengthened and put into practise more skillfully:
According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), POCSO cases had a conviction rate of 29.6% in 2016, yet 89% of them were still pending. The statutory two-month trial period is hardly ever adhered to in such situations.
Less than 3% of child rape cases that were heard by courts in 2016 according to NCRB statistics ended in convictions.
The stunning absence of staff and resources inside the criminal justice system.
Most districts continue to handle cases of child sexual abuse in ordinary sessions courts for the sake of compliance.
Police forces that are overworked, underfunded, inadequately trained, and lacking in forensic resources usually conduct unsuccessful investigations.
The fact that the legislation reduces the time given for the court to hear appeals against penalty and for the police to produce a charge sheet demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the issues at hand.
Ossification tests are utilised in POCSO cases to determine the victim’s age because, in most of the country, age-related paperwork is frequently absent or incorrect.
Revisions to the POCSO Act:
We urgently need to amend our laws to take into account contemporary developments, including the most recent ruling from the Allahabad court.
Finding solutions to problems with the POCSO Act’s execution, such as the lack of enough special courts, insufficient training for investigators and prosecutors on how to deal with child victims, and a low conviction rate, is absolutely important.
The Supreme Court’s order to establish special courts in each district having more than 100 ongoing cases under the statute must be complied with; special courts must be established in each district within 60 days of the order.
Fast track courts and special trial courts (previously defined in the POCSO Act) are in place to ensure that victims receive justice as soon as feasible. Instead of the death penalty, a combination of hefty monetary fines and life in jail without the possibility of parole may act as a deterrence.
Raising people’s awareness and sensibilities is as important for preventing the crime itself.
providing sex education to children, which is underused in India. As a result, they become more knowledgeable about the many protective laws, including POCSO, good touch-bad contact, etc.
Orientation programmes and intensive courses may also be designed with the aim of continuously increasing the ability of police officers and forensic experts in their specific roles.
Every employee must have their background checked by the police regularly by any organisation that houses children or often interacts with children, such as schools, childcare centres, sports academies, or other facilities for children.
Their identity should be protected both physically and online, thus there should be precautions in place.
Sexual assault prevention, protection, and reporting strategies are offered, including Childline hotline services through toll-free number – 1098, to safeguard their emotional and mental wellbeing.
In situations outside the POCSO’s authority, the Union government must at the very least lay out recommendations for efficient and targeted prosecution. In view of the growing body of international law around these issues and in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, India has to modernise its legislative and procedural processes in connection to the POCSO Act.
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