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The age of sexual consent should be 16 yrs in India: Vrinda Grover

IBNLive.com
Mar 13, 2013 at 07:22pm IST

Human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on new anti-rape Bill & whether it is right to lower the age of sexual consent from 18 to 16 years.

Q. What is the entire point of reducing the age for consensual sex to 16? Wont it help rapists get away easily?? At the age of 16 wont the minor be in a position where he/she can be easily tricked into having sex? Asked by: Badri

A. The age of consent for sexual acts under the Indian Penal Code has always been 16 years. Only now with the 2013 Ordinance it has been raised to 18years in February. So we are not reducing the age of consent only maintaining it at 16 years. The raising of the age to 18 years will in no way improve or increase the protection of young girls from sexual violence. Research studies and surveys done in India show that in urban AND rural India young people between the age of 16-18 years are engaging in sexual activity consensually. This the reality of our society. We may agree or disagree with the conduct of young people. However, we can deny this. Keeping the age of consent at 16 years only implies that if a girl and boy at the age of 16 years with the consent of both have a sexual relationship, it will not be criminalised, i.e. the consent of the girl will not be considered immaterial and irrelevant to determining whether the sexual act was with or without consent. If the 16 year old girl says that she did not consent the Court will of course hold the boy guilty. However, if we raise the age to 18 years then even if the 16 or 17 year old girl says that she consented to the sexual act, the Court will have no choice but to hold the young boy guilty and sentence had him to a Protection Home. All that raising the age of consent to 18 years will do is to give society greater control over the lives of young people and young boys in consensual relations with girls, where the relationship is disapproved due to caste, class, or religion will be charged and held guilty by Court.

The age of sexual consent should be 16 yrs in India: Vrinda Grover

Human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on new anti-rape Bill.

Q. Is it correct to lower the age for consensual sex and not lower the age of juveniles committing rapes or age for marriage? what is the government trying to promote? Sales of i-pills and condoms? The govt thus says you can't get married before 18 and 21 but can have consensual sex after 16? Asked by: Riddhi Thakkar

A. I think why we are asking for the age of consent to be kept at 16 years is so that we do not criminalise and pack off young boys top jail when they are in sexual relations with consent. Processes other than law determine the conduct of young people. Law should strengthen our rights and freedoms and not be an instrument of social control or moral policing.

Q. When talking on rapists to be dealt firmly this is issue of age on consensual sex is a diversion. Do you no feel so? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I think we need to see the entire issue in the broad framework of rights and particularly sexual autonomy. By criminalising consensual relations we will not control sexual violence.

Q. At present many consensual sex is being converted to Rape as the age of person is less than 18. In the era of proliferation of media, internet, cinema etc persons much below the age of 16 is well aware of the consequence of sex So the age must be reduced to 16. This will reduce the rape cases also. Asked by: prathap

A. Yes, I agree. Parents and other social forces compel the girl to file a false case because they do not approve of the relationship. That is partly what gives rise to the false case discussion. But these false cases are not lodged by women or girls, but by families who want to control the choices of their young daughter.

Q. The age of puberty when nature gets ready a person is much lower than 16 in most cases. The age 16 is a society's decision and the law says age 18 for marriage. The fact remains that maturity of an individual to take decision. Are we by default debating on pre-marital sex ? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. We must make a distinction between marriage and sex. the truth is that a lot of young people in rural and urban India do engage in pre-marital sex. If we disagree with this conduct of young persons there are other social processes through which we can intervene. The point is that we should not criminalise consensual conduct. under the law if the age of consent is raised to 18 years then even if there is evidence before the Court that the girl and boy had a consensual sexual relation, the Court will be bound by law to hold one guilty. Is criminal law the way to respond to changing times, values and conduct of teh youth.

Q. As a woman who has seen the past and present Also you have seen the internet, present generation, Indian movies, health of the children don't you agree to reduce the age to sixteen? Asked by: prathap

A. Yes, I agree the age should be 16 years.

Q. Isn't this a regressive move? From ibnlive website.. "Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal argued that in villages and among Muslims the age of marriage is sometimes as young as 14. "... So instead of arresting them few, we are changing the law for all? Asked by: Kart

A. I am in favour of keeping the age of consent at 16 years. However my reasons are different form that of the Ministers. Marriages performed at 14 are not with consent of the children concerned. Child marriage is thrust upon the boy and girl by society. Their consent is not taken. The argument for keeping teh age at 16 years is to not all Criminal law to interfere with the rights of young people to sexual autonomy and agency. This will curb societal control along conservative lines caste, class and religion.

Q. Why Muslim personel low board against this? Asked by: Rimi

A. Whether it is the Muslim Personal law Board or the Khap Panchayats, they do not believe that young persons in particular young girls should exercise any freedom or autonomy in terms of their sexuality or who they should have sexual relations with and when. they view marriage determined by families as the only destiny for a girl. Even if within that marriage their is violence or unhappiness for the girl. We need to think of human relations based on respect, choice and love.

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