Anti-rape Bill: Age of consent 16 or 18? What Indians feel?

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New Delhi, March 16: 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.

The anti-rape bill -Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 - which provides for stringent punishment for crimes against women, including rape, was cleared by the union Cabinet on Thursday.

Protests against rape

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. 

"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.

Now, what Indians have to say?

"As a mother, I opposes the suggestion of lowering the age from 18 to 16 years for consensual sex. It might have serious consequences in near future. It might lead to abuse of young girls," said Shruti Lal, a mother of two teenage girls.

However, activists have welcomed the lowering of age for consensual sex.

"I hope the Group of Ministers (GoM) of the government would have given a lot of thought about lowering the age of consent from 18 to 16 years," Mamta Sharma, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, said.

"Nowadays, girls are mature enough to know things at the age of 15. So bringing down the age will not be an issue," she said.

Sonali Khan, vice-president of NGO Breakthrough, said the law was "basically trying to say that young people are sexually active".

"It will help open up the topic of sexuality. We are hoping that more people come out against sexual abuse," she said.

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