No consensus over consensual sex consent

AS

The chickens have come home to roost for the UPA government and Krishna Tirath's women and child development ministry. Tirath has to defend the bar of 18 years for consensual sex set by the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 that her ministry anchored barely a few months back. And it is the collective responsibility of the UPA government to overcome her resistance and ensure that its knee-jerk ordinance in the wake of the Delhi gangrape does not lapse.

When the sexual offences Bill was passed, naysayers had maintained that setting the age of consent at 16 would be in keeping with both the existing rape law and the social reality of the day. This included the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights, but they were all overruled. It is this provision which has emerged as a roadblock in the passage of the new rape law and the defence remains shaky.

Lowering the age of consent does not give the right message to society is what Tirath said outside Parliament on Tuesday. That is the line her ministry had taken when riding roughshod over dissenting voices. It is also a classic example of how ministries work in silos that the same cabinet which had passed the bill against child sexual offences very recently is now intent on overturning one of its key provisions. And so deep are the fissures that it is now up to an empowered GoM to iron out the differences.

A government perpetually accused of being responsible for a governance deficit may also need to introspect about the need to become the social messenger, particularly when it was trying to replace an existing legal provision - 16 years was the age of consent before the child offences law and the rape ordinance - with one that reeks of regression.

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