MHA firm on lowering consent age for sex to 16

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SummaryLaw ministry differs, Cabinet to discuss next week

Notwithstanding the reservations of the law ministry, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wants the minimum age of consent for girls having sexual intercourse to be pegged at 16 years, even though this is in conflict with the existing legislative provisions.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, define a girl or boy less than 18 years as a child. The law says the minimum age of consent for having sex with a female is 18 years.

Even the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013, promulgated on February 3 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012 that was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 4, 2012, had pegged the minimum age of consent for girl at 18 years.

However, the Justice J S Verma panel had recommended that the minimum of age of consent be brought down to 16 years, in line with Indian Penal Code that criminalises sex with a woman under 16 years of age.

Law ministry sources told The Indian Express the ministry, while vetting the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, has conveyed its reservation on the MHA stand that is in conflict with other legislations. The MHA intends to introduce it in Parliament to replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013. “When we cited the fact that this would be in conflict with the other laws, we were told that the MHA wants the Cabinet to take the final view on the issue,” said a source.

As per the proposed amendment Bill, which the MHA will take to Cabinet next week, rape would be a gender-specific crime, with woman being the victim, thereby junking a key clause of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, which had sought to make rape (changed to sexual assault) gender-neutral.

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, which anchored the law against sexual offences against children, too is unhappy with the proposed changes. Earlier it had been assured that the age of consent under the IPC would be amended to ensure congruence with the new law.

“We were not aware of the proposed IPC changes. We only saw it in the newspapers this morning and are clueless as to how this may be reconciled with the Bill to prevent sexual assault on children,” said a ministry official.

The government has time till March 22 to get the Bill passed in Parliament, failing which the ordinance would lapse. Under

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