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Govt backs down,age of consent to remain 18 years

The changes were cleared at a Cabinet meeting and the Bill will be introduced in Parliament

Buckling under pressure from political parties,the government Monday agreed to retain 18 years as the age for consensual sex.

It also decided to dilute the provisions on stalking and voyeurism in the proposed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill,2013,which seeks to strengthen laws to deal with sexual crimes against women. The changes were cleared at a Cabinet meeting and the Bill will be introduced in Parliament Tuesday.

The decision to set the age of consent at 18 and rework the provisions on stalking and voyeurism was taken after two rounds of meetings of all political parties. While the first meeting ended without any agreement on contentious issues,the second saw the government bowing to pressure and agreeing to drop the controversial clauses.

Consequently,the age of consent for sex will be 18 years — it was 16 under the Indian Penal Code before it was raised to 18 through the Criminal Law (Amendment) ordinance issued in February. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill,2013,had lowered it to 16,a move opposed by many political parties.

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The government diluted sections dealing with voyeurism and stalking to “reduce gross abuse”. Both crimes will be bailable for first time offenders. However,repeat offenders would be denied bail and punishment would extend to a maximum of five years in jail. Making an attempt to define the term “stalking” more clearly,the bill said it will be considered a crime only when committed persistently.

The Bill also includes another provision in which disrobing a woman by force,even at a private place including a house,would be a punishable crime,with a jail term of up to seven years. Earlier,disrobing a woman in a public place was a punishable crime but the government felt that the mention of “public place” could be misused by criminals.

The Criminal Law ordinance was promulgated by the President on February 3 following the public outrage over the December 16 Delhi gangrape. The ordinance lapses on April 4 and Parliament has to pass the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill,2013,by March 22,when it breaks for recess.

First published on: 19-03-2013 at 02:51:12 am
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