'Need wider consultation for changes in POCSO rules'

'Need wider consultation for changes in POCSO rules'

The disability rights organisations and activists have called upon the government to hold a wider consultation to introduce amendments in the rules governing the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), noting that a process has been initiated to complete the exercise “in an opaque manner.”

In a joint letter to the Union Minister for Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry Smriti Irani, thirty-two disability rights organisations including the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) and the activists have strongly objected to the move.

“We gather from reliable sources that there is a proposal to amend the rules and that a draft has been circulated. However, these are not available in the public domain and major organisations working on children/women’s rights are oblivious of the same. And obviously, unable to contribute,” they noted in the letter.

The right bodies and activists noted that the ministry was learnt to have circulated a draft of the rules marked as “confidential.”

“Why the ministry circulated a draft marked 'confidential' is a mystery. Why only a few select NGOs were privy to the draft deprives logic? As organisations and activists who have worked on cases of sexual violence on children with disabilities, we strongly feel that our inputs should be sought while amending the POCSO rules,” they added.

In their letter to the WCD minister, the disability rights organisation and activists agreed that the amendment to the POCSO rules might be needed for proper implementation of the Act.

“It would be in the fitness of things if a more elaborate and inclusive consultative process is undertaken. This, important aspect, however, is missing in the current exercise,” they added.

They demanded that the ministry must maintain transparency in the exercise.

“You will appreciate that experience gained by various organisations working among children, especially those dealing with sexual assaults, including organisations working among children and adults with disabilities will only contribute to strengthening the process,” they stated.

“In the interest of framing better rules, also from the perspective of children with disabilities, we implore upon you to have wider consultations rather than restrict it to a small group,” they added.