Shailesh Kumar


Stakeholder training has been considered essential to tackle the problem of poor engagement with child sexual abuse (‘CSA’) victims in the pre-trial and trial stages of the criminal process. Be it stakeholder attitudes and behaviour towards the CSA victims and the accused involved in CSA cases or stakeholders’ procedural practices, more and improved training has been repeatedly emphasised. It is, therefore, pivotal to investigate what kind of special training is imparted to stakeholders under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (‘POCSO’) Act, 2012, as well as the challenges and limitations to such training. Also important is to analyse and discuss what, if any, implications such training has on stakeholder engagement with child victims and on CSA cases. This article answers these questions by employing a qualitative empirical method and a new set of data – in-depth face-to-face interviews with 17 judicial officers (Judicial Magistrates & POCSO Special Judges) on their perceptions and experiences of special training to deal with POCSO cases, along with court observations, conducted during six months’ fieldwork (2019-2020) in India. The findings suggest that around half of these respondents received training on POCSO matters. Such training resulted in stakeholders, though not all, implementing the special POCSO procedures during pre-trial and trial stages. Through these findings, the article showcases that there are limitations to special training and to the law itself in its present form, given the infrastructural challenges that exist for these stakeholders and the socio-economic inequalities capturing both victims and accused in registered POCSO cases. Consequently, it aims to contribute to thinking through new ways on effective stakeholder training and of future directions of research, and argues that despite several limitations, the law remains a site of possibility to deliver improved experiences with the justice system to both CSA victims and accused.

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