Parliament must examine age of consent issue, says Chief Justice of India

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Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on December 10, 2022 appealed to Parliament to have a relook at the issue of age of consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 as it posed difficulties for judges examining cases of consensual sex involving adolescents.

What is POCSO Act

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 [“POCSO Act, 2012”] is legislation which aims at protecting children from all types of sexual abuse.
  • Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations in 1989, the offences against children were not redressed by way of any legislation in India till the year 2012.  

Age of Consent –

  • The age of consent is the age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts.
  • Consequently, an adult who engages in sexual activity with a person younger than the age of consent is unable to legally claim that the sexual activity was consensual, and such sexual activity may be considered child sexual abuse or statutory rape.

Age of Consent in India –

  • India's age of consent for sex is set at 18 years under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, regardless of gender.
  • In 1892, the marital rape and subsequent death of a 10-year-old girl, Phulmoni Dasi, caused the age of consent to be raised from 10 to 12.
  • In 1949, it was raised to 16 after agitation from women's groups about the adverse effect of early pregnancy.
  • On 3 April 2014 the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 came into effect, which raised the legal permissible age for sexual consent from 16 to 18.
  • Although the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 initially sought to lower the age to 16, it was set at 18 due to political pressure from conservative parties.
  • Section 375 reads: A man is said to commit "rape" if he (...) Sixthly – With or without her consent, when she is under eighteen years of age.

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