May 2, 2012

Should India Raise Age of Sexual Consent?

(The Wall Street Jounal - 27th April, 2012)

India’s Cabinet late Thursday okayed an amended bill aimed at combating sexual abuse of children, a move that could go a long way to address the widespread problem.

But activists, while generally welcoming the proposed legislation, have trouble with one of its provisions: raising the age of legal sex to 18 from 16.

The move, they caution, could push parents in a conservative country to use the new law to sanction elder children’s sexual behavior. And the police may also use the law to harass couples.

“It will lead to hundreds of complaints by parents to file reports of rape even though the child had consensual sex and no crime was involved,” said Nishit Kumar, a spokesman at Childline, a toll-free helpline for street children in distress.

Pooja Taparia, founder of Mumbai-based organization “Arpan” which works in the field of child sexual abuse, agreed, saying the law is likely to be misused by both parents and police.

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