New Delhi: 2:35 pm: Age of consent will be 18 years with provision that a first time offender will be given probation of one year, say sources. Sources add that consenting sex between 16 to 18 years will constitute rape. Government will move the amendments and hopes to take it to the Cabinet by Monday evening.
2:03 pm: The anti-rape Bill will be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and the age of consent will be decided in the House.
1:26 pm: Sources in the government have indicated that they are not against raising the age on consent from 16 to 18 years in the anti-rape Bill.
1:00 pm: Sources say that while the CPI has sought 18 as the age of consent, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has vehemently opposed the anti-rape Bill. The TMC has pressed for wider consultations with states. The BJP is open to minor tweaking and retaining the consent age at 18.
11:30 am: The Trinamool Congress has sought wider consultations with states on the anti-rape Bill. TMC leader Sudip Bandhopadhyay said, "TMC is in favour of a strong bill. Since the state governments are implementing authorities, state governments should be brought on board and their opinions must be taken as well."
11:05 am: Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said there are divergent views on age of consent and there'll be another round of meeting at 12:30 pm.
11:02 am: There seems to be no political consensus on lowering the age of consent to 16. The first round of the all-party meet has turned inconclusive. There will be another round of the meeting at 12:30 pm.
9:40 am: The all-party meet on anti-rape Bill has begun, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath has said that the contentious issues will be sorted out later and added as amendments as the priority is to pass a strong Bill soon.
As the government struggles to find consensus on the anti-rape Bill, it is set to face opposition in the all-party meet primarily over lowering of the age of consent. The other contentious issues include stringent punishment for stalking and voyeurism.
The protests after the December 16 Delhi gangrape case had united those on the streets and the political class as well. Cutting across party lines, politicians had called for a strong anti-rape law. Government ministers may have sorted out their differences, but will the members of Parliament do so? One point of contention is the age of consent, which has been brought down to 16. Regional parties also have reservations on the stringent punishment for stalking and voyeurism.
The Bharatiya Janata Party will make its position clear in the all-party meet, but has strong reservations on lowering the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years, especially with the RSS openly coming out against this provision. "We oppose any move to lower the age of consent," RSS leader Bhaiyaji Joshi said.
The Left parties are likely to support the Bill. They would have ideally wanted marital rape to be made a penal offence, but with that not happening they want certain safegurads while lowering the age of consent for sex.
The Trinamool Congress is also opposed to lowering the age of consent. The Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United) are uncomfortable with clauses dealing with voyeurism and stalking.
Of the two Uttar Parties parties, while Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati supports the Bill, the Samajwadi Party is opposing it. "The Bill will lead to unnecessary problems," SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said.
The government hopes that the Bill, as promised, will be taken up in the Budget Session before the ordinance lapses on April 4. Since the Bill requires a simple majority for passing, it will sail through in Lok Sabha, but the problem comes up in the Upper House. The government strategy in case the Bill runs through opposition is to pass the buck of its failure.