Why call it rape if teenagers elope willingly, asks special court

A special fast-track court, set up to try sexual offences, on Thursday questioned if there is a need to relook at the age of consent and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The court's observations came as it allowed the release of a 20-year-old man, convicted of kidnap and rape of a 16-year-old girl, after the girl told that court that she willingly went with the man.

Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Virender Bhat said the courts are "flooded" with cases where girls between the ages of 15 and 17 willingly engaged in sexual intercourse with man "whom she loves and wants to marry".

He said the case is a "grim reminder" of the "realities of society", and asked "why their sexual act with their lover (was called) as rape, when it is not in fact so".

"Today's girl of more than 15 years of age is not so innocent and numb as would be lured into the sex act by a boy. They are more mature and nubile than the girls of their age about 25 to 30 years ago," the court said.

The Naraina resident was arrested in August 2012, and was convicted after he pleaded guilty and admitted that he knew that the girl was under 16 when they eloped.

The girl, who was examined as a prosecution witness, told the court that she had run away with the man on her own volition and they had sexual intercourse with her consent.

"It is, therefore, manifest that the convict had not employed any force or coercion upon the prosecutrix and she was a willing party to the elopement and the sexual intercourse," the court said.

The ASJ said the boys suffered in such situations as their "educational career is marred and they face incarceration in jail for a considerable time, when the girl with whom they enjoy sex, is equally responsible for the whole episode".

The convict in the case was released on the jail term already undergone by him as an undertrial.

Stating that the court was "powerless" as long as it was not given the discretion to adjudge the girl's consent in individual cases, ASJ Bhat said the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act would "be a great disservice to the nation as it will open floodgates for unwarranted criminal prosecution of young boys".

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