April 30, 2012


Proposal To Make Sex Illegal For Teenagers Up To 18 Years Of Age Flies Against All Logic And Draws Fire From Experts

Anahita Mukherji & Shreya Roy Chowdhury | TNN

Adecade ago,canoodling couples in Bandra,an uptown Mumbai suburb,were rounded up by the police.A few months ago,a Ghaziabad policewoman pounced on young lovers on park benches,pulling the men by their ears and publicly humiliating them.Elsewhere,a group of mothers in Manipur are cracking down on teenage couples in restaurants,threatening them with sticks and videocameras.

While the countrys conservatives have,for long,declared war on adolescent sexuality,the law may be set to follow suit,with a new bill in the Rajya Sabha that criminalizes teenage sex.The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill (2011) had a provision for consensual sexual activity between the ages of 16 and 18,but the caveat has now been dropped from the bill,effectively criminalizing teenage sex.It renders poor an otherwise good legislation.

Deleting the consent clause has created a furore among the countrys child rights activists,feminists and the medical fraternity.Many believe that the new law will not only lead to unnecessary police harassment of young couples,but also high-risk sexual behaviour in the absence of any social support.

Do we want to start punishing young people for premarital sex Do we want them to start wearing chastity belts The authorities have gone overboard in removing the age of consent for those between 16 and 18,especially in a scenario where young people are getting sexually active at an early age.This is stupid and goes against the child, says academic Madhu Kishwar,founder of Manushi,an organization that works for democracy and womens rights.

Meanwhile,the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has taken a consistent view against criminalizing sexual exploration among those between 16 and 18.Penalizing such activities will only add to the confusion.The law can be used against both boys and girls.Anybody,from parents to neighbours,can complain to the authorities,who will,in turn,take action against the youngsters.As a result,something very natural will now become distorted,secretive and unacceptable.This will have consequences for how we organize our society and relations between boys and girls, says Shanta Sinha,chairperson,NCPCR.

The caveat for consensual sex between the ages of 16 and 18 has been dropped despite advice to the contrary from NGOs,advocates and organisations that represent women and children.While we are against the sexual exploitation of children,we have taken a position against criminalizing teenage sex,as those between 16 and 18 are known to explore their sexuality, says Nandita Shah,co-founder of Akshara,an NGO that works for the uplift of women,and was involved in consultations over the drafting of the bill.
Actor Rahul Boses The Foundation,which works towards fighting child sexual abuse,is among the organizations which have written to the government against criminalizing teenage sex.We know of instances where boys between 16 and 18 have been sent to jail for consensual sex with a girl.The new law is highly regressive and will result in an increase in such instances and also make it dangerous to engage in physical relationships.This,in turn,will lead to a rise in risky sexual behaviour.The health risks increase for girls,while boys will be threatened with jail.No gender will benefit, says Suchismita Bose,director,The Foundation.
Activists say theres nothing wrong in mutual consent sex in the age group 16 to 18,provided theres proper sex education and inculcation of awareness about sex-related risks.However,they draw a line when theres sex between,say,a 16 -year-old and a 40-year-old,as the possibility of the younger one being either forced or tricked is high.We need a nuanced law,not a blanket ban, says an activist.

The lack of sex education in schools does little to remedy the situation.While both psychiatrists and sex surveys point to the fact that teenagers are increasingly getting sexually active,and hence there is greater need than ever for sex education,a parliamentary panel headed by BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu had led the charge against the introduction of sex education in schools in 2009.

Doctors believe that the lack of information on sex,coupled with the threat of jail for teenagers indulging in sexual activity,is disastrous as it will make sex not just clandestine but a high-risk activity.Dr S Krishna Kumar,a gynaecologist from Thane,gets three to five cases of teen pregnancy a month,with the girls seeking medical termination of pregnancy.If sex between 16 and 17 year olds is a crime,such cases will be forced to go underground,resulting in an increase in unsafe abortions, says Kumar.

I have handled many teenage pregnancies.Youngsters,many of them under 16,are known to indiscriminately pop Ipills and other emergency contraceptives to prevent conception, says Ahmedabadbased gynaecologist Dr Rajal Thakker.

This bill will not serve any purpose.Age of sexual contact has gone down remarkably and the adult-child is a reality, says psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty,president of the Counsellors Association of India.He feels that punitive law of this kind will not stop sexual abuse but only increase corruption.It refutes the changing times and is a denial of the current reality.Taking away the provision of consent puts a heavy price on any attempt at sexual exploration by kids in their lateteens.If a 19-year-old boy has sex with a 17-year-old girl,will you put him away in jail"asks Shetty.Besides,this will lead a spike in honour killings,suicides and parents of one child blackmailing others.While Ahmedabad-based clinical psychologist Dr Pooja Pushkarna describes the governments denial of adolescent sexuality as the ostrich-like approach,Delhi psychiatrist Dr Jitendra Nagpal says this is an over-ambitious attempt on the part of the government to alter behaviour patterns.It could lead to kids using more dangerous ways of experimenting or result in more young people eloping, says Nagpal.Sexual contact typically begins between the ages of 12 and 14 in our metros,he says.With intercourse starting between ages of 15 and 18.With the overwhelming opinion against criminalizing teenage sex,there is still time for a rethink.Although the cabinet has cleared the bill,Parliament should review the proposal and ensure our laws are in tune with the times.

With inputs from Radha Sharma in Ahmedabad and Neha Miglani in Chandigarh


Age of consent 16

Protects under 16s from abuse Mutually agreed teen sex OK,unless it involves abuse If age gap is,say 16 & 40,law comes down harshly,but gap of 16 & 23 fine


Age of consent: 16 years,raised from 14 years on May 1,2008

Consent age 18 where sexual activity exploits youngster or in a relationship of authority,trust or dependency Sexual activity exploitative based on youngsters age,age gap,how relationship developed Exceptions: A 14 or 15-year-old can consent to sex as long as partner is less than five years older,theres no relationship of trust,authority or dependency If partner is 5 years or older than 14 or-15-year-old,sexual activity is criminal offence unless theyre married to each other


Age of consent in the 50 states and DC range between 16 and 18

At age prescribed one can have sex with whomever they wish as long as the person is consenting and are same age or older Many states have age-gap provisions that legalize teen sexuality as long as they are within a certain age range In all states,dating,hugging,holding hands,kissing not illegal In some states,fondling,groping through clothes illegal

April 27, 2012


Sex with minors to be treated as rape

The Union cabinet on Thursday approved the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, which will address sexual offences, sexual harassment and assault on children under 18 years of age.
According to the new law, having sex with persons below 18 years of age will be deemed as “rape”, irrespective of “consent or no consent”. The amendments to the law were suggested by the parliamentary standing committee which scrutinized the bill.

“In the original bill, the provision was not to treat consensual actions by and against children between the age group of 16 to 18 as crime,” a cabinet source said.

The parliamentary committee had expressed the view that once the age of the child had been specified as up to 18 years in the Bill, the element of consent should be treated as irrelevant up to this age and suggested that provisions related to age of consent should be deleted.

Section 375 of the IPC will now read as: “Rape will be committed with or without consent when the girl is under 16 years of age.” The proposed law also aims to protect children from offences, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.

Another amendment to the Bill was approved after which the responsibility to create awareness about the law would be vested in both the central and state governments, officials said.

The Cabinet, meanwhile, referred the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, to a group of ministers as the women and child development ministry had proposed several amendments to it.— —With agency inputs

April 26, 2012


Sexual offences against those under 18 may attract life term 

 Himanshi Dhawan TNN New Delhi:

The Union Cabinet is likely to discuss on Thursday a bill that will make sexual intercourse or ‘contact with sexual intent’ with a child— a person below 18— illegal. The sexual offences against children bill proposes tough penal provisions ranging from three years in jail to life term for a person convicted of sexual harassment, sexual assault, penetrative sexual assault or aggravated penetrative sexual assault. It also seeks to include sexual abuse of male children while bringing trafficking and using kids for pornography under the ambit of the new law. It is for the first time that a legislation will be brought to tackle offences specifically against children that are not dealt with under the existing laws.

The bill has dropped the ‘age of consent’ (16-18 years) clause following a recommendation by a House panel which argued that under existing laws like the Indian Penal Code and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, a person below 18 is considered a minor and there should be uniformity in laws. Housemaids included in harassment bill The Cabinet will also consider a bill aimed at cracking down on sexual harassment of women at workplace. Domestic helps will be included in it for the first time.

The bill makes it mandatory for workplaces, including homes, to set up an internal panel to redress complaints. P 12 Sex abuse of kids up, convictions down New Delhi: The sexual offences against children bill, which makes sexual assault against a person under 18 punishable with up to life term, has been mooted by the ministry of women and child development (WCD). According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, sexual offences against children, including rape, procuring of minor girls and buying and selling of girls for prostitution, shot up from 2,265 in 2004 to 5,694 in 2009. Out of 20,890 reported cases of rape in 2009, nearly 24% were against children.

 A worrisome trend was that 11% of these cases were against kids below 14 and 3% against children under 10 years WCD officials said the conviction rate of rape cases had come down to 30.7% in 2009 from 38.7% in 2001, indicating that children were targeted as they were unable to testify convincingly against the accused. A study on child abuse by the WCD ministry found that more than 53% children had faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. More shocking, 50% of the abusers were reported to be known to the child or were people who were in a position of trust or responsibility with respect to the child. Times View:Raising of the age of consent for sex from 16 to 18 must be seen as a step back, not a forward movement. At a time when the puberty is known to be setting in much earlier than in the past and when social mores are getting easier about sexuality, this looks like an attempt to roll the clock back.

This is clearly not going to prevent young adults from exploring their sexuality. All it will do is to provide scope for undue harassment of teenagers indulging in consensual sex. If we are serious about emotionally and otherwise protecting our adolescents, the way to go is more sex education and counselling, not trying to make the act itself illegal.

April 4, 2012

Betrayed by the protector

In an era where bad news has become a daily staple and the severity of crimes against people reaches new lows every day, the recent report of a father raping his own daughter for over a year is exceptionally disgusting and repulsive. What does it say about our plunging moral ecosystem?

One of the worst crimes that can be committed is that where one exploits a person who one is expected to protect otherwise. A father's relationship with his daughter is fiduciary, i.e. one of trust. He is not just a financial provider to her, but is also her greatest source of protection in a dangerous world. She is his baby, whatever her physical age. When the protector turns defiler, can there be a crime worse than that?

In this situation, it's not just a sex crime that's being perpetrated. The real crime in this situation is the betrayal of that trust. Having been violated by her own father, the girl (who incidentally is a minor) has perhaps lost the ability to strike any healthy relationships during the course of her life. Her ability to think and believe in the inherent goodness of mankind has perhaps been tarnished forever.

Two issues require serious deliberation here. The first issue is more generic about society. Why does a rape victim have to face continuing (even lifelong) trauma? Why is she believed to have invited the calamity on herself when, in a free country, everyone is entitled to lead a life of one's choice? Why does the social taboo of 'being raped' multiply the troubles of a victim, never the perpetrator? Why is society callous towards the victim, and continues to berate her? Why is she not allowed to lead a normal life even after the crime, without anyone making snide remarks about her 'character'?

These questions say a lot about our society and its misguided beliefs, but never elicit a sensitive hearing from our political leaders, opinion-leaders, family-members and other stakeholders (other than some well-calibrated lip-service).

The second issue relates to the role of the girl's mother. It's not as if a crime of this brutality was committed in a moment of madness. This girl was abused several times by her father for over a year, and all this while, the mother kept quiet. She attributes her reticence to the fear of the family name being tarnished in an unforgiving society. It's not as if we are talking about an eminent family of the country, but just common people who are guaranteed anonymity anyway in a fast-paced city. She also feared being beaten up by her husband if she intervened to protect the child. However, her financial and emotional dependence on her husband cannot mitigate her role in the crime, one of omission rather than commission, but equally grave.

Can we move on to a world where girls are respected, nurtured and loved, rather than brutalized by their own parents?

--Shaina N C

Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month

Create an understanding and open environment to help the child talk about the sexual abuse:
when children finally do talk about abuse,its very important to handle it carefully.
Rules in handling disclosure:
keep calm
believe the child
listen to the child
Answer the child's question honestly
Respect the child's privacy by not telling other people
Give positive messages:"I know you could not help",'Its not your fault',"I am with you" or "I am proud of you for telling".
Get professional help from counselors,doctors after taking the child into confidence.
Arrange a medical examination if necessary.