New Delhi: Government has no plans to reduce the age of consent for consensual relationships, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. In a written reply to a question whether the government is considering changing the age of consent for consensual relationships to 16 years from the present 18 years, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said the question “does not arise”.
The minister said the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, 2012 enacted to safeguard children from sexual abuse and sexual offences clearly defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years. The Act was further amended in 2019 to introduce more stringent punishment, including the death penalty for committing sexual crimes on children, to deter the perpetrators and prevent such crimes against children.
“In case of commission of the offence by a child, Section 34 under POCSO Act already provides a procedure in case of commission of the offense by child and determination of age by Special Court,” the minister said.
“If any question arises in any proceeding before the Special Court whether a person is a child or not, such question shall be determined by the Special Court after satisfying itself about the age of the such person and it shall record in writing its reasons for such determination,” Irani said. The minister added that The Majority Act, of 1875, which was amended in 1999, provides 18 years as the age for the attainment of majority.
In reply to another written question on child marriages, the minister informed the Rajya Sabha that the number of cases of child marriages reported has increased over the last few years as per the data of the National Crime Records Bureau, but added that it does not necessarily reflect an increase in the number of cases of child marriages, but maybe because of increased awareness. In 2019, 523 cases of child marriage were reported, in 2020 it was 785, and in 2021, it was 1050.
“Higher reporting of cases does not necessarily reflect an increase in the number of cases of child marriages, but it may be because of increased awareness among citizens to report such incidents due to initiatives such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), Women Helpline (181) and Childline (1098) implemented by the Ministry and better enforcement of the law by states/Union Territories,” Irani said.
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