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IF only the number game could solve the problems of sexual abuse of juveniles, it could be handled easily. After a year-long confusion that arose due to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill- 2011, that defined consensual sex between the age group of 16 and 18 was not a crime, finally some kind of logical reasoning is established between the official age of maturity of youngters and the age of consensual sex.
On Thursday, the Union Cabinet approved an amendment to the Bill under which any sexual activity, even consensual, with a person below the age of 18 years would be considered an offence.
This amendment may help cases like the Bombay High Court verdict that acquitted a teacher accused of raping a 16 year- old- girl, observing that she had consented to the act. A lower Sessions court had ordered imprisonment of the accused for six years for committing the crime in 2004. The high court verdict came a few days back, acquitting the accused based on the Bill of 2011. It happened because the law did not define an agreeable age gap between the two consensual partners. The amendment still leaves a lot of anomalies in our interpretation of several Acts and Bills that allow one man the licence to rape his 15-year-old wife because a married couple’s consent is an accepted matter while another can be prosecuted for consensual sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend.
Now, since the marriage age and the age for consent for sex have finally come to be agreed upon as 18, one can see some relief. But by dropping the caveat for consensual sexual activity between the age of 16 and 18, the law had criminalised adolescent sex. In changing times, it is an accepted fact that teenagers engage in sexual activity. By making even consensual sex illegal between the age of 16 and 18, the law has empowered moral policing and will push up the number of illegal abortions because teenagers will tend to hide their sexual activity for fear of law.