New Delhi, March 13: The age of consent for sex could be lowered from 18 years to 16 with the government today claiming a consensus on several contentious issues in a fresh draft of the criminal law (amendment) bill.
At the end of the second meeting of the P. Chidambaram-led empowered group of ministers (EGoM), telecom minister Kapil Sibal said “differences” had been resolved.
The cabinet will take up the draft bill for discussion and finalisation tomorrow. It is expected to be introduced in Parliament before March 22 and will replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance that was promulgated on February 3.
Lowering the age of consent had met with resistance mainly from the women and child development ministry. Minister Krishna Tirath had argued that it would encourage sexual abuse of children.
At today’s meeting, Tirath is known to have only “reluctantly” agreed to lowering the age.
At yesterday’s EGoM meeting, law minister Ashwani Kumar had raised doubts on the possible misuse of the clauses on stalking and voyeurism. It was suggested that a clause be introduced to handle frivolous complaints.
But the group of ministers has decided to go ahead without the demanded “safeguard”.
The group was constituted yesterday after a specially convened cabinet meeting failed to reach a consensus on lowering the age of consent in the draft bill moved by the home ministry.
Sources said following today’s development, an amendment would have to be brought to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Passed by Parliament last November, this bill had set the age of consent at 18 years.
It is not known if an amendment to this act would be brought along with the draft bill that is to replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance.
Besides lowering the age of consent, the draft bill would replace “sexual assault” with the word “rape”, removing the gender-neutrality in the ordinance.
“Other offences in the ordinance, including the non-bailable offences of acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism, have been kept unchanged,” an official said.
The ordinance, promulgated in the wake of the December 16 gang rape of a 23-year-old paramedical student in Delhi, prescribes the death penalty for rapists in cases where the victim dies or survives in a vegetative state.