A Delhi court has termed a draft law proposed last month to raise the age of consent for sex from 16 years to 18 as regressive and draconian.
The court said in view of changing social attitude and sensibilities,exceptions should be made while deciding the age of consent for sex,as in rural parts of the country marriages are solemnised at an early age.
Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau made the observations while referring to the conditions in western countries where there are adequate safeguards for protection against sexual offences.
In the absence of such a safeguard,the proposed increase in the age of consent would become regressive and draconian as it tends to criminalise teenage/adolescent sex. The need is to correct this behaviour and not punish it, the judge said.
The courts observations came while acquitting a youth of charges of kidnapping and raping a seventeen-and-a-half-year-old girl,whom he married and now has a child with.
The court referred to the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Bill approved last month,which provides that no person below the age of 18 will have the legal capability to give consent for any sexual activity and the bill makes sex under the age of 18,even if consensual,to be deemed as statutory rape.
The court acquitted Ghaziabad resident of kidnapping and raping a Delhi-based girl after considering that they were in love and had eloped and married as their families were against the relationship.
Both the girl and the boy being happily married with a child,any hyper-technical view would be devastating for the young couple. I hold the charges against Ajay do not stand established and I acquit him for the same, the ASJ said.
Exceptions and allowances have to be made while considering the age of consent/protection keeping in view the changing social attitudes and social sensibilities and the situation in rural India where early marriage is a norm and acceptable in diverse cultures and religions,particularly where the age gap between the youngsters are within acceptable limits and no exploitative coercive situation is reflected, ASJ Lau said.
Referring to the case,the court noted the girl had told the magistrate,who recorded her statement,that she had voluntarily gone with Ajay after telling her parents and then married him on November 6 last year.
The judge said it was clear from the evidence that the case was registered by the girls brother as the family was against the couples relationship but later they accepted their marriage and even performed formal ceremonies as per the Hindu rites.
The girl is happily residing at her matrimonial house along with her husband Ajay and child, ASJ Lau said.