New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday said it favours a strong anti-rape law but has certain reservations on some of the clauses in the Bill cleared by the Cabinet and will voice them in the all-party meeting here on March 18. "BJP agrees with most issues stated in the Bill and would like it to be passed. But some sections in the party have reservations on decreasing the age of consent from 18 to 16 years. We will take a final call on these issues after discussing it in the party," a senior party leader said.
Party sources said there is concern that decreasing the age of consent is uncalled for as the minimum age for marriage is 18 years. BJP's core votebank as well as a majority of its leadership is traditional in its thinking and has conservative views on issues like pre-marital sex, they said. "Decreasing the age of consent may antagonise some of our voters and that need not be tampered with," the party leader said.
The main opposition is not coming out openly with its views and maintains that it will voice them in the all-party meeting after intra-party confabulations. "The provisions on which there is a consensus can be passed as part of the Bill. A Standing Committee can look at the contentious issues and an amendment can be passed later," another party leader said.
In the currently charged atmosphere prevailing in the country in the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape incident, BJP wants the anti-rape Bill to be passed before the ordinance lapses on April four. "We are in favour of strong anti-rape Bill. We want the strongest possible punishment for the perpetrators of such crime," BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu told reporters outside Parliament.
"The government for its own reasons first acted in haste and then issued an ordinance and now they want to make changes in the ordinance," he said, adding that the on-going consultations should have taken place earlier.