Youth are often considered a vulnerable group in society, facing various risks and challenges that affect their well-being and development. In India, youth constitute about 28% of the total population and are exposed to multiple forms of violence, abuse, exploitation, and marginalization. To address these issues, the Indian government has enacted two key legislations: the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. These acts aim to protect children and adolescents from sexual offences and other crimes and to provide them with care, protection, rehabilitation, and social reintegration. However, the implementation and effectiveness of these acts have been questioned by various stakeholders, including civil society organizations, academics, practitioners, and the youth themselves. This paper examines the strengths and limitations of the POCSO Act and the Juvenile Justice Act in addressing youth vulnerability in India. It adopts a mixed-methods approach, combining secondary data analysis, literature review, and primary data collection through interviews and focus group discussions with youth and experts.
The paper argues that while the POCSO Act and the Juvenile Justice Act have some positive features and impacts, they also face several challenges and gaps that must be addressed. These include a lack of awareness and sensitization among youth and society; inadequate infrastructure and human resources; procedural delays and legal complexities; insufficient coordination and collaboration among stakeholders; lack of child-friendly and gender-sensitive approaches; and limited opportunities for youth participation and empowerment. The paper concludes by suggesting some recommendations for improving the implementation and outcomes of the POCSO Act and the Juvenile Justice Act, such as: enhancing awareness and education campaigns; strengthening capacity building and training; streamlining procedures and processes; fostering partnerships and networks; adopting holistic and inclusive models; and promoting youth agency and voice. The paper contributes to the existing literature on youth vulnerability in India by providing a comprehensive analysis of the POCSO Act and the Juvenile Justice Act from a youth perspective. It also offers insights for policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and youth themselves on how to address youth vulnerability more effectively through legal frameworks.