The Prosecutor General's (PG) Office (PG) has made the recommendation to reclassify the sexual abuse of children as a felony offense.
The recommendation was presented by the PG office at a meeting with the Parliament's Committee on Human Rights and Gender on Thursday, to discuss and analyse the Juvenile Justice Regulation and the Child Rights' Protection Act.
The PG office highlighted the difficulties faced in upholding the clause to withhold the identity of a witness as described in article 68 of the Child Rights' Protection Act. They noted that the confidentiality clause cannot fulfill its objective if it clashes with the enforcement of other laws.
Article 68(a) states that a system to report crimes needs to be established, and that system must be established and announced within six months of the act being put in effect. Article 68(b) elaborates on the purpose of the aforementioned clause, describing its objective as support to article 67(a) which states that an at-risk child must have their identity protected through a confidential reporting or referral system until the issue is investigated and a solution is found.
PG office advised referring to the methods of confidentiality used by the relevant authorities in such cases. They suggested that a criminal case may be simultaneously revealed with a case of child protection. As an example, they describe a mother who reports a crime of their partner abusing her child would be at risk, especially if the mother turns out to be domestically abused by the same perpetrator.
According to the PG office, there is no guarantee that the personal details of the person who reported the crime can be kept a secret through the stages of the justice system. They attribute this to the current state of the legislation, nothing that only felony offenses allow secret witnesses at present.
In response to the PG office concerns, Committee chairperson Jeehan Mahmood stated that the objective of analyzing both the bills together is to identify the issues or clashes with other laws that prevent these laws from achieving its objectives. Once identified, the committee will present these complications in a report, said Chairperson Jeehan.
Jeehan further added that punishment for Exploitation of the Penal Code will also be presented along with the report. And that the only solution is to put forward amendments.