December 22, 2011


Times of India

Even consensual sex with minors to be dubbed abuse?

Waive 16-18 Yr Leniency Norms: House Panel

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has recommended waving off the provision of “age of consent’’ in cases of sexual assault, observing that any sexual act below the age of 18 years should be seen as child abuse. The recommendation is a sharp departure from government’s view that considering social realities, consensual acts by children aged 16-18 years should not be criminalized.

“The committee is of the view that since the age of child is specified as 18 years, the element of consent should be treated as irrelevant up to this age… in consonance with the country’s commitment towards UN convention on the rights of children and the Juvenile Justice Act,” the report by the parliamentary standing committee on HRD, examining the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill 2011, said. It was tabled in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

The women and child development ministry and the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights argued that there was no contradiction in the definition of child (below 18 years) and age of consent (16 years) as the age of consent was kept in consonance with IPC Sections 375 & 377.

The committee, headed by Congress MP Oscar Fernandes, said it is strongly felt that protection of children from sexual offences had to be seen from a wider perspective, and confining it to confirmation of a sexual offence by levying of punishment through special courts was “simply ignoring” the real welfare of the child.

The bill defines any person below the age of 18 years as ‘child’ and seeks to penalize any person who commits offences such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, penetrative sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault. It also recommended strong protective and preventive measures in the bill to the extent possible and if need arises, in the rules and guidelines to be made to prevent instances of sexual offences against children. “Specific provisions/ mechanism for sensitising children, parents, teachers, peers should be prescribed.”

The bill says a person commits sexual harassment if he uses words or shows body parts to achild with sexual intent, shows pornography to a child or threatens to depict a child involved in sexual act through the media. The penalty is imprisonment for up to three years and a fine. The report has recommended waiver of penalty for false complaints.

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