Indian Parliament.Reuters

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, a special law to address the issue of sexual offences against children.

The issue came to the centre-stage when actor Aamir Khan took it up in the second episode of his weekly TV show "Satyamev Jayate."

The bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 10, 2012, has been drafted to strengthen the legal provisions for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

A statement by the Ministry of Women and Child Development noted that sexual offences are currently covered under different sections of IPC. "The IPC does not provide for all types of sexual offences against children and, more importantly, does not distinguish between adult and child victims," it said in a statement.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and seeks to protect all children from the offences like sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography. These offences have been clearly defined for the first time in law.

The Act provides for stringent punishments, which have been graded depending on the gravity of the offence. The punishments range from simple to rigorous imprisonment of varying periods. There is also provision for fine, which is to be decided by the court.

Moreover, the Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences and the evidence of the child to be recorded within a period of 30 days to facilitate speedy trial. The Special Court should complete the trial within a period of one year.

The bill states that an offense will be treated as "aggravated" when committed by a person in a position of trust or authority of child such as a member of security forces, police officer or a public servant.

Punishments for offences covered in the Act are:

-          Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 3) -  Not less than seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 4)

-          Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault (Section 5) - Not less than ten years which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine (Section 6)

-          Sexual Assault (Section 7) - Not less than three years which may extend to five years, and fine (Section 8)

-          Aggravated Sexual Assault (Section 9) - Not less than five years which may extend to seven years, and fine (Section 10)

-          Sexual Harassment of the Child (Section 11) - Three years and fine (Section 12)

-          Use of Child for Pornographic Purposes (Section 13) -  Five years and fine and in the event of subsequent conviction, seven years and fine (Section 14 (1).