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.

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