New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) The government has agreed to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18 years in the anti-rape bill it plans to introduce in the Lok Sabha Tuesday, informed sources said Monday. An activist said the provision could be misused.
"Consensual sex with a girl under 18 years old will be treated as rape," said a government source after a consensus on the issue was arrived at an all-party meeting here.
According to the source, a minor who is accused of gender crime he will have to undergo a probation of one year as punishment for the first offence but will be charged with rape if he is booked for a second time.
All-India Progressive Women's Association chief Kavita Krishnan said the provision in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, could be misused.
"The all-party meeting has apparently decided that age of consent will be 18 but a young boy under 18 will get a 'one time probation' for consensual sex. This is most inadequate (protection), since any third party (parents or khaps) can claim he violated the probation and get him convicted for rape," she said.
The women's right activist said keeping the age of consent at 18 could be used against the oppressed castes.
"The age of consent is only the age below which 'consent' cannot be a valid defence in a court of law. If it is raised to 18, young boys, especially from oppressed castes, will face rape convictions for consensual relationship with any girl," she said.
According to a Supreme Court lawyer, the confusion started in May last year when "the age of consent, which has been 16 years under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), was raised to 18 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012."
"Now the government needs to come to a conclusion," he said.
The government will bring the amendments on the issue when the bill is brought up in the lower house, said the sources.
The bill also proposes death penalty in the rarest of rare cases for rape and for repeat offenders.
It also incorporates suggestions of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee formed to make the anti-rape laws stronger.
The issue has been in focus after the brutal assault and gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi Dec 16 last year. She succumbed to her injuries Dec 29 in a Singapore hospital where she had been airlifted for treatment.
The anti-rape bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee Feb 3. It has to be passed by April 4.