Women’s Groups in India suggest decriminalising consensual sexual activity for 16-18 yearolds
Women’s groups, under the banner of Mumbai Working Group, have sought de-criminalisation of consensual sexual activity in the 16-18 age group, while recommending replacing the term ‘minor’ with ‘child’ for all persons under 18.
Writing to the Home Ministry on the proposed draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2010, they said that an under-16 did not have sufficient maturity to ascertain the consequences of a sexual act and may suffer adverse impact on health, body and mind due to ‘penetrative’ sexual activity. It would not be so for the 16 to 18-year-olds.
“It is very strongly felt that it would be counter-productive to penalise consensual sexual activity when any of the parties are between 16 and18 years of age. It would be a weapon in the hands of parents who oppose the relationship, and such parent would be in a position to penalise the other party for a consensual act.”
Suggesting that the age of consent should be retained at 16, they said that this had been arrived at keeping in mind the child attaining the maturity to understand the consequences of engaging in sexual activity.
Proposing a minimum seven-year prison sentence extendable to life term, the women’s groups said sexual offences against children should be made gender-neutral for the 16-18 age group. They said it would be more appropriate to enact a separate legislation to deal with sexual offences against children.
In another major recommendation, they said any sexual assault on children under the age of 16 and between 16-18 without consent by a uniformed personnel or while in custody of the staff or management of health, educational or residential institutions or even someone from the family should be punished with a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment which may be extended to a life term. This kind of assault has been described as aggravated sexual assault on a child.
For the aggravated assault on child by uniformed personnel, officials, guardians or known people by obtaining consent through seduction, or using a position of authority, the minimum punishment should be a five-year jail term.