The government says that my daughter can have sex on attaining the age of 16 but can not marry. What a contradiction this is?
On one hand you talk of giving better education and professional opportunities to girls and then you try to give legal support for indulging in sexual activities with them at 16. If at 16, an 11th class school-going girl becomes pregnant, will there not be large-scale school dropouts?
Think of teenage pregnancies and the mental, physical and emotional transformation teenagers go through in such an event. Teenage is considered an age where children need education to ensure a better future for the country. Those arguing for 16 years as the age of consent probably don’t count women as part of the country’s future!
The child marriage law was a big reformational step in modern India. But even now child marriages are rampant in certain regions mainly because of orthodox, patriarchal society.
There is a growing demand, especially after the Delhi gangrape case, that a rapist of 16 years of age should not be considered a minor. As per the existing law, a rapist who is below 18 years of age is considered minor, but the victim below 18 should be considered adult? Is this the formula of justice you are offering to women’s struggle for dignity?
Consent is the only basis for determining the offence of rape and the whole trial in rape cases revolve only around proving and disproving “consent”. Therefore, “consent” has to be very carefully defined. Knowledge of an act is not enough to make a person wise enough to “consent” for that act. For God’s sake use cohesive and holistic approach while formulating a law.
Fourteen to 18 years is an impressionable and gullible age. If you argue that teenagers today are advanced in every field as compared to their parents at their age, agreed. But how many? Ours is a country of 1.2 billion people and, even so, information of sex is different than handling the responsibility and consequences of indulging in sexual activities.
Laws are formulated as per the society in question and not by what is going on in other countries. In our society, where customs/traditions and religious dictates are interpreted to a woman’s disadvantage, a society where still a huge number of women are kept in pardah, a society where even the expression of a woman’s desire is considered a sin, the government has to be very careful in enacting laws because law is the only strength a woman has in such a society.
Ranjana Shahi is a social activist and lawyer.