Despite concerns voiced by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath,the Cabinet Thursday stuck to the clause to lower the age of consent from 18 years to 16 years while clearing the revised Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill,2013.
The Bill,which is set to be discussed at an all-party meeting on March 18,also provides for an amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act,2012,aimed at bringing down the age of a minor under this law from the current 18 years to 16 years.
The Bill provides for stringent punishment for rape,acid attack,stalking and voyeurism,with the minimum punishment for rape being a jail term of 20 years and a maximum of life term. In case the rape victim dies or is left in a persistent vegetative state,the maximum sentence would be death.
Bowing to the demands of womens rights activists,the Bill defines rape as a gender-specific offence under which only men can be charged for it and only women can be victims.
Stalking and voyeurism have been defined as criminal offences,with sustained stalking made a non-bailable offence. However,the Bill doesnt provide for making marital rape a separate offence.
At the meeting today,Tirath said that in case the age of a minor under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act,2012 is brought down from 18 years to 16 years,young boys between the age of 16 years and 18 years would be left without any legal cover to protect them from sexual abuse. This,she said,could encourage child abuse.
However,her objection found no support from other members of the Cabinet,with many saying that lowering the age from 18 years to 16 years would prevent false cases of statutory rape in cases where teenagers have consensual sex.
The Bill has to be approved by Parliament before its recess that begins March 22,failing which the ordinance it proposes to replace would lapse on April 4.