New Delhi: The Centre`s proposal for raising the age of consent for sex from 16 to 18 years would be "regressive" and "draconian" as it would remain a penal offence, a Delhi court has said.
The court opined that keeping in view the change in social attitude and sensibilities, exceptions should be made while deciding the age of consent for sex as in rural parts of the country marriages are solemnised at an early age.
Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau made the remarks, while referring to the conditions in western countries where there are adequate safeguards for protection against sexual offences.
"No doubt, there is an urgent need to protect children from sexual offences, harassment and pornography but at the same time it is necessary to ensure a close-in-age reprieve and a lenient view in case of close-in-relationship as adopted by various western countries where there is no exploitative coercive situation including impersonation, fraud, fear, threat and false promises.
"In the absence of such a safeguard the proposed increase in the age of consent would become regressive and draconian as it tends to criminalise teenage/adolescent sex. The need is to correct this behaviour and not punish," the judge said.
The court`s observations came while acquitting a youth of the charges of kidnapping and raping a 17-and-a-half-year-old girl, to whom he got married and is now having a child with.
The court referred to the proposed special 2011 bill for protection of children from sexual offences, which provides that that no person below the age of 18 will have the legal capability to give consent for any sexual activity and the bill makes sex under the age of 18, even if consensual, to be deemed as statutory rape.