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New Delhi: The cabinet yesterday approved the anti-rape bill by agreeing to stick to 18 years as the age of consent instead of 16, informed sources said. The cabinet meeting was held last evening following an all-party meeting in the morning, when the bill was discussed.
The sources said the government has agreed to stick to 18 years as age of consent following suggestions at the all-party meeting. They said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) were among the parties which had reservations over the lowering the age of consent to 16.
The sources said that the age of consent was 16 years under the Indian Penal Code but was raised to 18 in the anti-rape ordinance promulgated by the government in February this year.
However, the government agreed to lower the age of consent to 16 under the proposed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, following inter-ministerial consultations.
The sources said several political parties had suggested at the all-party meeting that the age of consent should be increased to 18 years since the minimum age of marriage for girls was also 18.
Meanwhile, lawyers and activists yesterday slammed the government for agreeing to retain the age of consent at 18 years in the anti-rape bill that it plans to introduce in the Lok Sabha today.
They argued that the step would unnecessarily affect those under the age of 18 who have consensual sex.
If the age had to be retained to 18, “a ‘young person’s defence’ should have been introduced — which means that people who are having sex consensually should not be criminalised”, lawyer Vrinda Grover said.
Grover added that though the bill was “far from perfect, it must be passed in this session”.
Agreed a Supreme Court lawyer requesting anonymity: “Rape is a rape, irrespective of age, but the age of consent ideally should have been 16, as it protects young couples who are having physical relations willingly.”
“A boy below the age of 18 can easily be charged for rape if he has sex even if the girl tells the court that the sex was consensual,” said the lawyer.
All-India Progressive Women’s Association chief Kavita Krishnan said the provision in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, could be misused.IANS