Kerala High Court bats for psychiatric treatment of persons accused of child sex abuse; sex therapy for victims

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The Kerala High Court recently called for the formulation of schemes to carry out psychiatric treatment for individuals accused of having committed child sexual abuse under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act).

The Court has ordered that such a scheme be framed by the Kerala State Legal Services Authority (KELSA) in consultation with the State Department of Health Services, and the State Department of Social Justice, with the help and guidance of experts.

The scheme should be aimed at “providing treatment including intense psycho therapy /pharmacological intervention/psychiatric treatment if found necessary to the inmates in Prisons and Correctional Homes accused of having committed offences under the POCSO Act, be it remand prisoners, under trial prisoners or convicts,” the Court said.

Justice Gopinath P added that the Kerala government should implement this initiative in collaboration with the Director General of Police (Prisons) in all Prisons and Correctional Homes in Kerala “in order to reduce recidivism of such gruesome offences to a reasonable extent.”

In the same ruling, the Court also called for prioritising therapy for victims or survivors of sexual assault.

“The Secretary, Department of Social Justice, Government of Kerala shall formulate a Scheme in consultation with the Department of Health Services, Government of Kerala and the Kerala State Legal Services Authority for extending scientifically based sex therapy to the survivors/victims of sexual assault in order to help them lead a normal life on rehabilitation and to enable them to have reintegration into the main stream of the society and shall implement the same,” the Court ordered.

The Court further issued directions to sensitise teachers and caregivers of schools or care homes where sexual abuse victims are sent.

“The Secretaries of Higher Education and General Education in Kerala must collaborate with legal services and victim rights authorities to formulate instructions for schools and care homes. These guidelines will sensitize teachers and caregivers in handling sexual abuse victims, ensuring equitable treatment,” ordered the Court.

The Court passed the order while considering the bail plea by a 19-year-old boy who was accused of sexually abusing his 13-year-old sister.

The accused person maintained that he was innocent, while the prosecution asserted that the police had concluded that the allegations were true.

After an interaction between the victim and members of a Victim Rights Centre, the victim stood by her allegations but expressed guilt over the split of her family after she made the complaint.

The victim is also reported to have remarked that her brother would not have committed such an offence had he not been addicted to drugs.

Considering the facts of this case, the Project Coordinator of the Victim Rights Centre had put forth certain broad suggestions to the Court on the larger issue of carrying out therapeutic interventions for both the victims and persons accused of sexual abuse.

The Court accepted these suggestions and issued specific directions to carry out the same.

In so far as accused persons are concerned, the Court urged for a collaboration between various authorities to establish an effective framework for the psychiatric care of accused persons within the prison and correctional system.

Simultaneously, the Court highlighted the need for sex therapy for survivors of sexual assault, aiming to facilitate their post-rehabilitation integration into mainstream society.

Having issued these directions, the Court proceeded to grant the 19-year-old accused bail, albeit with certain conditions including that he should report regularly to a Probation Officer. The accused was also ordered not to enter his home district.

The accused bail applicant was represented by advocates P Samsudin, Milan Rachel Mathew, and Nasrin Wahab.

The State government was represented by Public Prosecutor G Sudheer.

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