A recent state-level consultation in Tamil Nadu has shed light on the need to train doctors in The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Held by the Tamil Nadu Commission for the Protection of Child Rights in association with the UNICEF, the meet focused on ending violence against children.
One of the recommendations finalised is the need to train doctors in the medico legal aspect of abuse.
Talking to The Federal, MP Nirmala, TNCPCR chairperson, said that doctors are the first point of contact for victims after the abuse. “They could immediately determine if there was an abuse. Therefore, the recommendations has been to rope in paediatricians, orthopaedists and the gynaecologists for training them in the various clauses,” she said.
At the moment, those specialising in forensics science are being trained in it. “It becomes imperative to include the act and its provisions concerning doctors in the medical curriculum,” she added.
‘Doctors play a major role’
The POCSO Acts and Rules, 2012 says that ‘no medical practitioner, hospital or other medical facility centre rendering emergency medical care to a child shall demand any legal or magisterial requisition or other documentation as a pre-requisite to rendering such care.’
The rules also say that the registered medical practitioner rendering emergency medical care shall attend to the needs of the child, including treatment for cuts and bruises, exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. The most important role of the medical practitioner is the collection of forensic evidence in the course of rendering emergency medical care and the evidence must be collected in accordance with section 27 of the Act.
Bearing in mind the key role they play in the case, Directorate of Medical Education has already initiated a programme where resource people among government doctors have been identified and trained. In order to upscale the existing programme, around 500-700 doctors from across the state will participate in a two-day programme on the medico legal side of POCSO Act. The programme done in association with the UNICEF, Dr MGR University and the Government of Tamil Nadu.
Dr Edwin Joe, director of medical education, said, “ The Act is new and it covers a broader group — including both girls and boys. The victims of abuse — both physical and sexual– come up with a number of complaints and the programme will focus on making them understand why and when they should doubt that the child has been subjected to abuse. The evidence they collect and present in the court of law makes their role all the more crucial. We are also tying up with the Indian Medical Association to reach out to private doctors.”
The first point of investigation
K Shanmugavelayutham, convenor, TN-FORCES, pointed out that often when doctors have failed to treat or examine victims, there has been a considerable delay in the proceedings of a case. “In Dindigul, we had a similar situation when the victim was made to run around for treatment. There are provisions in the act that specifies the kind of action that can be taken against doctors who refuse to treat the victims,” he said.
According to activists there are more than 500 cases of POCSO reported every year and there are many that go unnoticed or are not prosecuted due to lack of evidence.