Anti-rape Bill: Lok Sabha test for age of consent on Tuesday

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New Delhi, March 18: The all-party meet on anti-rape Bill on Monday remained inconclusive. Political parties are fighting over the clause to lower the age of consensual sex from 18 to 16. Now, media reports say the anti-rape Bill will be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

In fact, the issue of age of consent will be decided in the floor of the House itself. Now, it has to be seen whether parties will agree on the issue in Lok Sabha.

Protests against rape

Sources in the government say a compromise formula might be reached as they are not against raising the age of consent from 16 to 18 years in the anti-rape Bill.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told media persons that there are divergent views on age of consent.

Moreover, several political parties--DMK, TDP, RJD and BJP--failed to turn up for the meeting.

Political parties are divided over whether age of consent for consensual sex should be lowered down from 18 to 16. Thus the passage of anti-rape Bill in the Parliament may not be easy for Congress-led UPA government.

Time is sort, as the bill has to be passed by April 4 of the ongoing Budget session.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has suggested consultations with states on the anti-rape Bill. TMC leader Sudip Bandhopadhyay said, "TMC is in favour of a strong bill. Since the state governments are implementing authorities, state governments should be brought on board and their opinions must be taken as well."

Government through the Bill is planning to lower the age of consent for consensual sex from 18 to 16. Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) favours a strong anti-rape Bill, but it strongly opposes the lowering of age to 16 years.

"We will oppose the bill at the all-party meeting. If it is brought for voting in parliament, the SP will vote against it," party leader Ram Gopal Yadav had said Friday.

BJP leader Najma Heptulla had said, "If a person below 18 is a juvenile and is given relaxed punishments because he is not mature enough to know the consequences of what he is doing, how is a child of 16 mature enough to consent to sexual activity?"

"BJP agrees with most issues stated in the Bill and would like it to be passed. But some sections in the party have reservations on decreasing the age of consent from 18 to 16 years. We will take a final call on these issues after discussing it in the party," a senior party leader said.

Even Trinamool Congress (TMC) opposes lowering the age to 16 years. SP, RJD and JD (U) are uncomfortable with clauses dealing with voyeurism and stalking.

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