`Lowering age of consent for sex may increase abortions`

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh opposed the Centre`s decision to lower age of consent for sex to 16 from 18.

Updated: Mar 17, 2013, 20:21 PM IST

New Delhi: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh on Sunday opposed the Centre`s decision to lower age of consent for sex to 16 from 18, saying it reflects western mindset and may spread unwanted pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases among the youth.

The Chief Minister of the BJP-ruled state, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said lowering age of consent for sex would be a "definite invitation to sexual experimentation among the young".

"I find that those in favour of age of consent at 18 years have been unsuccessful in persuading your government that awareness of health hazards is at present low in rural areas; that prevalence of anaemia is widespread and poor girls would suffer the most even if sex were to be consensual; that abortions and unwanted pregnancies may become rampant," he said.

The CM said since sex education is not well organised in schools, and because there is resistance to even introduction of sex education in schools in rural areas as well as in most urban areas, the risks relating to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS could potentially multiply because of lack of awareness among youth at the relatively younger age of 16 years, he said in the letter.

Raman Singh said poor are typically under-nourished and, therefore, at greater risk, and for them consensual sex at 16 years of age is neither desirable physically nor psychologically as some medical experts have pointed to; or again that reducing age of consent could potentially encourage trafficking of girls.

The Union Cabinet had on Thursday cleared Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill which lowers the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years and makes rape as a gender-specific offence under which men only can be charged for it.

Singh said people in his state were "amused" over two further arguments--one, that false accusations of rape would be prevented, if age of consent is lower; and second, that sex and marriage should be looked upon differently.

"This thinking, which militates against our commonly understood notions of the sanctity of the institution of marriage, is distinctly disconnected from our larger society and seems to be the view point of a minority influenced by western values," he said.

He said, "It was somewhat ironic that the debate, which started with the entire nation as one gearing up for more stringent legislation against the crime of rape, following the reprehensible incident on December 16, in our national capital, has now been reduced to a controversy on redefining the age of consensual sex."