New Delhi, April 2: If a teacher repeatedly beats or humiliates your child, he could now be jailed for one to two years.
If other teachers or the institution head get to know of it but do nothing, every one of them may be fined at least a month’s salary.
A draft law has labelled corporal punishment and “bullying” as bailable crimes against children. “Bullying” is defined as “deliberately and persistently intimidating, persecuting, humiliating or demeaning a child through menacing words and gestures”.
But a little “scolding or minor beating by (a) teacher in the interest of the child' (and) not of a persistent character” is not a crime, says the Offences Against Children Act, 2006. The draft is silent on parents who habitually beat their children.
The act makes all the other offences it covers non-bailable: sexual offence, physical abuse, trafficking, sale and transfer of a child and economic exploitation.
For repeated non-bailable crimes, an offender’s assets may be confiscated and “applied for the welfare of child victims”, says the draft, now being circulated among the states.
The punishment for bullying is a jail term up to a year and a fine or both. As an alternative, though, the offender may be asked to do community service.
Corporal punishment will bring a prison term of up to two years, a fine or both. The offence is defined as “any unreasonable or severe punishment inflicted on the body of the child, including confinement, for disciplining the child”.
It applies to “any person in authority in any place imparting formal or informal education, or institution for care and custody of the child”, and will therefore include hostels, orphanages and the like.
The jail term for sexual abuse varies according to the victim’s age. It is five to 10 years if the child is under 12; two to 10 years if he or she is between 12 and 16; and six months to 10 years if the victim is older than 16. For commercial sexual exploitation, the draft law prescribes “rigorous imprisonment” of five to 10 years.
It directs the Centre to set up special “children’s courts” for the protection of child rights. Till now, the concept has existed mainly on paper.
The act is the first comprehensive law to curb crimes against children in a country with the world’s highest child population. It comes 10 years after India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and pledged affirmative action to protect children from all forms of abuse.
Various national and international organisations have highlighted how badly Indian children, especially those from poor families, continue to be abused and exploited.
A National Human Rights Commission report says, “Sex offenders are shifting base to less developed countries because the developed countries have increased their vigilance against paedophilia.”
It cites how the thriving sex tourism industry in Goa and Pondicherry is sucking in more and more children.
Two weeks ago, while sentencing two Britons for sexually abusing children in Mumbai, a sessions judge had said he wanted to “let paedophiles all over the world know that India should not be their destination in the future”.