While the union cabinet has approved the bill to strengthen anti-rape laws, its provision to lower the age for consensual sex to 16 years may snag the bill with many political parties.
The bill provides for lowering the age for consensual sex to 16 years from 18 years. Though it will not be an entirely new concept as the age of consent for sex has been 16 years under the IPC since 1893, there are apprehensions even within the government.
The draft legislation has been approved by the union cabinet, and an all-party meeting to discuss it is scheduled for today. Woman and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath has opposed the decision, saying it may not give the “correct message” to society.
The main opposition BJP has, however, chosen to keep its cards closed. However, sources from the party said it may notagree to lowering the age of consent from 18 years to 16 years.
The CPI-M welcomed lowering the age for consensual sex, adding that some safeguards were needed with it. Party MP TN Seema said that it should include that the man should not be more than five years older than the girl.
“Boys and girls under the legal age of marriage do make friendships which may lead to love affairs, some of which may end up in some form of sexual relationship through mutual consent. Although we may not encourage this, there should be no scope for criminalising the youth engaging in consensual sex,” she said.
“There should be some safeguard like the law commission’s suggestion that the man should not be more than five years older to the girl to ensure that there is no coercion or power relation in getting consent from the girl,” she added. The SP, which supports the government from outside, has said it will not support the bill. While the BSP has not disclosed its stand on the bill.