Govt relents, keeps age of consent for sex at 18



Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Under pressure from various opposition parties, the Union Cabinet on Monday agreed to keep the age of consent for sex at 18 years from 16 and amend provisions on stalking and voyeurism in a bill which seeks to hand down stringent punishment for crimes against women.

The age of consent for sex was 18 years under the Indian Penal Code before government promulgated an ordinance on February 3 this year, lowering it to 16 years.

The proposed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 sought to lower the age of consent for sex to 16 years but due to stiff opposition from political parties the Union Cabinet today agreed to keep the age of consent for sex at 18 years with certain riders.

A decision in this regard was taken during a meeting of the Union Cabinet where the recommendations made by various political parties were thoroughly discussed.

The sources claimed that the government agreed to stick to 18 years as age of consent for sex following suggestions at the all-party meeting.

They said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) were among the parties which had reservations over the lowering the age of consent to 16.

It is learnt that on the issue of stalking and voyeurism, the government agreed to water down some of the provisions such as not putting the entire onus on the accused to prove his innocence.

Most parties were of the view that the clauses about stalking and voyeurism be tweaked further to prevent misuse. There should be sufficient safeguards against filing of false cases by political opponents and those wanting to settle scores.

The bill had provisions for safeguard against misuse. However, the group of ministers - to which it was referred to - decided to drop it, maintaining the existing provisions in IPC have sufficient safeguards.

The Criminal Laws Ordinance, which made anti-rape laws more stringent, was promulgated by the President on February 3 in the wake of public outrage over the December 16 Delhi gang-rape.

After the Cabinet’s approval, the anti-rape ordinance will now be presented in Parliament for discussion and debate tomorrow.

The ordinance lapses on April 4 and the government and most parties are of the view that the bill be passed with suitable changes before the Budget Session goes into recess on March 22.