Time to lower age of consent for sex? National child rights body thinks so

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has said that it supports lowering the age of consent to 16 in criminal law.

Pallavi Polanki March 06, 2013 15:32:37 IST
Time to lower age of consent for sex? National child rights body thinks so

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has said that it supports lowering the age of consent to 16 in criminal law.

The Home Ministry has reportedly suggested changes to the Criminal Law (amendment) Bill, 2013, seeking a reversal of the change made by the criminal law ordinance promulgated in February, which raised the age of the consent from 16 to 18 in rape cases (Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code).

Prior to the ordinance, sexual intercourse with a girl below 16 was considered rape, irrespective of consent. The ordinance, however, raised the age of consent to 18, implying that sexual intercourse by an adult with a girl below 18 would amount to rape, irrespective of consent.

Time to lower age of consent for sex National child rights body thinks so

The new ordinance had been passed after outrage over the Delhi gangrape. PTI

Now the Home Ministry has reportedly sought the age of consent be lowered back to 16 under Section 375 of the IPC. If cleared by the Cabinet, change will be incorporated in the Bill. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, once passed, will replace the ordinance.

On whether it was a good idea to lower the age of consent in rape cases, Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the NCPCR said, “Many children are sexually active by the time they are 16 and we cannot criminalise any action between a girl and a boy who are between 16 and 18.”

When asked whether there would then remain a contradiction between the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, which defines child as below 18 and does not define age of consent at 16, Sinha said, “There is a contradiction and this is an occasion to revisit the Sexual Offences Act. There was a discussion on this. But then it was not amended. I think we’ll have to bring into consonance with the criminal law bill and amend it accordingly.”

It may be recalled that by accepting the recommendation of Parliamentary Standing Committee report on the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Bill, the consent clause had been removed from the draft bill by the government.

The Standing Committee report had stated that, “By having the element of consent, the focus would be on the victim which would invariably lead to re-victimisation of the victim in the hands of the justice delivery process and would be especially problematic when dealing with children.”

On the lowering age of consent to 16 in the case of rape and whether it was a positive move, Kirti Singh, legal convenor of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) said, “We had suggested via media. The age consent should normally be 18. But in relationships where the boy is not five years older than the girl, it could be 16. This is based on laws through-out the world in which this is accepted, taking into account the consensual sexual activity between 16 and 18.

“If the age difference between the girl and boy is five years, the relationship entered into is by young people. But if it is a case of a 40-year-old forcing sexual intercourse then it should 18.”

Asked whether was evidence of problems with a higher age of consent in rape cases, Singh said, “There is lots of evidence. Cases of kidnapping and rape are put on the boy in consensual relationships. The police take action against the boy. And the girl is harassed by the family.”

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