BJP and Trinamool are objecting to a lower age of consent on the ground that this is in conflict with “conservative norms” of Indian society.

So those who have been harassing young Indians for interacting with the ‘opposite sex’ continue to have support.

What kind of mindsets want the age of consent to be 18 and not 16?

I am curious to know, how do they think would the society benefit from criminalizing consensual sexual activity between sixteen and seventeen year olds? They don’t seem too concerned about women being hurt, since they seem to see nothing wrong with women being raped by their husbands – even if they are 16. Some of them actually recommend they are married at 16. If women are raped by men they are not married to, many make excuses for the  rapists and blame the victims. It seems the only time the man involved is blamed is when the woman has consented i.e. premarital sex or adultery.

Are they then more concerned about Marriage as an Institution than they are about citizen’s rights? Do they see women as people with equal rights and feelings?  Do they think Patriarchal Institutions (any Institution) are more important than the people they were created for? What would happen to children born from these ‘criminal activities’? Would the unwed, teenage mothers be arrested for consenting or would they be asked to claim they were raped?

Do they ever think? Or, they are either trying to say what they think their voters want to hear, or repeating what their great grand fathers probably said.

Govt’s move to lower age of consent to 16 from 18 years runs into opposition

Serious opposition is building up to lowering the age of consent for consensual sex to 16 from 18 years with main opposition BJP expressing reservations to the move – a stance that can force the government to rethink its position.

Trinamool and BJP are objecting to a lower age of consent on the ground that this is in conflict with “conservative norms” of Indian society. “BJP is of the firm view that the bill should be passed in this session itself, but the provision lowering the age of consent to 16 years should be excluded from the present bill,” a senior party leader said.

As apprehended by a section of the government, Muslim organizations too slammed the proposal to lower the age of consent from 18 to 16 arguing premarital sex or sex outside marriage was against social norms and culture.

Abdul Rahim Qureshi, assistant general secretary, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said, “It is an irony that government proposes to lower the age of consent to 16 when marriageable age for girls is 18. Sex outside marriage is detrimental to society.”

Taking note of the undercurrent in Parliament, official sources said the government may not make reducing the age of consent to 16 a sticking point, arguing that it was for the all-party meeting to indicate if 18 was more acceptable.

Related Posts:

Where Consensual Sex is Rape, and Forced Sex a legal right.
“why not marry them first and then have sex ? What prevents you from doing it ? Deep within YOU WANT JUST SEX and nothing more”
What Khaps need is a strictly implemented law against Forced Marriages.
How does an average Indian define Rape, Child Abuse and Consensual Sex?
Who benefits from criminalizing consensual teenage sex?
Parents should choose the boy for a girl aged below 21, as it is they who bear the brunt of an unsuccessful marriage – Karnataka HC
Love Marriages spoil the Family System of our Nation.
Where is the opportunity for Indian men to learn the most natural thing in the world – finding a mate??

54 thoughts on “BJP and Trinamool are objecting to a lower age of consent on the ground that this is in conflict with “conservative norms” of Indian society.

  1. Another view point in this TOI comment:
    Sarat Pattanayak (Bhubaneswar) 0 min ago
    ‘Conservative norms of Indian society’ is an ill-defined phrase that underlines BJP’s oppositionism to everything the Congress does. Basically, the saffron party is a throwback, not a pioneer. Clinging to higher age clearly has a class bias. The boys of wealth betters would certainly take advantage of it. Their crimes between 16 and 18 years of age, though equally horrendous, would be viewed less seriously by law.

  2. There is this deep rooted fear that if a woman has pre-marital sex, then she is exercising consent in something that has been traditionally controlled by men.
    One, she is demonstrating her right to make decisions over her own body.
    Two, virginity is no longer a virtue that can used as a weapon to shame or control her.
    Three, this may lead her to find her own life partner, thus endangering the arranged marriage system that benefits older males (BJP types).
    Four, premarital sex can mean that a woman can be sexually experienced – which can be threatening to men who see themselves as God’s gift to women.
    And five, premarital sex acknowledges the elephant in the room – that women, just like men, can also be sexual beings, can have desires, and are not just objects on whom sex must be extracted through persuasion, or a sense of obligation, and if all fails, pressured, blackmailed, or forced.

      • Thank you IHM. The same people who scream against premarital sex don’t give a damn when a woman gets raped or abused within a marriage. Their hypocrisy is astounding.

    • Agree with you Priya. As IHM said “It seems the only time the man involved is blamed is when the woman has consented i.e. premarital sex or adultery” So true! So as long as sex is ‘extracted’ no one is hurting ‘Indian culture’ and ‘values’, sab teek hain !

    • Thumbs up Priya!
      Loved reading your comment.
      Brief and hard hitting and on target.

      I am a little confused on this issue.
      Viewed from this distance (I am (64), both 16 and 18 are equally tender ages and I feel acutely uncomfortable to hear of sex being discussed with reference to 16 and 18 year olds.

      During my youth, even 21 was considered too young to be called a real adult and the elders most reluctantly allowed us into their club when we reached 21. The voting age was 21.

      I can only vaguely remember how my male body felt at those ages.
      I have no idea how the girls of that age felt, during my youth.
      We discussed all subjects but sex was never discussed at that age between boys and girls in the educated middle class society I belonged to. The boys discussed it between themselves in hushed whispers and we wondered what the girls were discussing in between secret giggles.

      I am unable to decide what is the right age,18 or 16.

      The age is falling with time and I wonder if it will fall further in the decades to come. I will be appalled when it falls further to the age of puberty.
      Who knows what the future will bring?

      Regards
      GV

      • I will be appalled when it falls further to the age of puberty.

        You may be surprised to know that it is already set at the age of puberty in at least one country that I know of (Bolivia). :)

        • Well in most countries I know of the age of consent is sixteen.
          That doesn’t mean people have sex at the age of sixteen. To be honest what is the point of having an age of consent?

        • B,

          Most countries do not regulate consensual sex between two people who are both below the age of consent, and are close in age to each other.

          The idea is (typically) not to stop people below the age of consent from having consensual sex with each other, but rather to prevent unscrupulous adults from having sexual relationships with adolescents who are too young to understand the consequences and ramifications of the said sexual contact.

      • GVjee,
        I’m not against pre-marital sex but I agree with you that younger kids having sex is a concern. I think education is the key to that, not controls. And putting blinders on doesn’t help anyone. I find that young boys and girls who are raised in homes where sex is demystified, is treated at natural and healthy, and safety, responsibility and consequences are discussed – are more likely to hold off on engaging in sex until a more mature age.
        The decision to hold off must be an educated choice rather than an enforced one – the former leads to more adult, responsible relationships when they are ready to engage in them.

        • Another flaw I see with the ‘these kids are not mature enough’ argument is – what about all the people in their 20s and 30s (even 40!) married but still have adults controlling their finances, whether or not they should visit their parents and when, whether they should give up their job or not, when to have kids, whether they should abort or not – this is not exactly considered ‘mature’ by any means. These are not really adults, if their parents are still making these decisions for them. So at what age does the average Indian mature? I think ‘maturity’ also depends on the individual.

      • Many women in India have had, and still have sex at ‘tender’ ages of 16 or younger. My own grandmothers would fall into this category.
        The difference of course, was that they were married.
        It was common for sexual activity to begin when puberty was attained- as most women were married off in their early teens. In fact, that was the whole point of puberty- a biological signal that the woman was now ready to be married off.
        The men were married slightly later-but only slightly.
        My grandfather tried to run away at 17 to escape his marriage (he was unsuccessful, and so I’m here today)
        How is that past better than what exists amongst youth today?
        Agreed it might make people uncomfortable that young teens are indulging in sexual activity, but I think in the history of humanity, it was always socially sanctioned-in the form of early marriage.
        Modern times have made it so that marriage has been delayed for educational reasons, but the biology of teen-age has been wished away and swept under the carpet.

        • So true Desidaaru, Shail, and Blinkdot. My paternal grandmother was married at 15 and had kids within a year. My maternal grandmother was married at 12, sent back to her parents’ house (didn’t ‘mature’), then sent back to in-laws’ house at 13 (after ‘maturing) and had her first kid at 14. I agree with Desidaaru that the difference now is the right to not get married and not have kids and separate all that from engaging in a sexual relationship. If we can provide adequate sex education to our kids, that will ensure responsible actions and decisions.

      • Wasn’t it set at the age of puberty in the old times GV? Why the surprise? My paternal grandmother told us she was married and went to her husband’s house at 13 years of age. By 15 she was a mother. I believe that was the norm those days?

        • As someone very close to the ages discussed here(I am 20), I am wondering what it is about sex that is so life-transforming and important that it cannot be done at 16 or 18? If you’re educated about safe sex practices, what is the problem? I am not challenging your comments here, just wondering what you feel.

        • Sorry I commented in reply to Shail, but meant to comment in reply to all the comments in this thread.

      • Thanks to all who replied or commented on my comment.
        During my younger days, “sweet sixteen” was a familiar expression, when referring to the age of a girl.
        A girl at that age was still “pretty”, not yet “beautiful”
        I wonder, in these permissive times, if that expression can still be used.
        I am positively uncomfortable with both ages, 16 and 18
        I don’t know what the right age should be.
        I am still tempted to cling to 21!
        No logic. Just sentiment!

        Regards
        GV

        • Also, even if you think the right age is 21, the question is should we criminalise consensual sex between teenagers under 21? I think that just opens them up to abuse (from police and society). If two 17 year olds have consensual sex, should they go to jail?

          It’s different if we’re talking about a 17 year old and a 50 year old, in which case the difference in maturity makes grooming a strong possibility. However, speaking of two consenting teenagers, who decides when they are ready to act on their desires? Surely not the government!

      • Maybe things were different for men and women GV. My husband’s mum was married at 19. I know that many women were and still are married much earlier that even 19. In fact more women were probably married and had babies before 18 in your era than now. Child marriage cases in rural India still consist of teenage couples having babies (and thus sex). I don’t really think that the acceptable age for sex is falling, I think what’s different is that the sex we are speaking of here is happening consensually outside marriage.

  3. “conservative norms of Indian society” yeah, like forced marriages, sexual assaults, dowry, and lack of freedom for women. Why on earth would we want to stop THAT?

  4. Wow. How did I not see this coming? I was just so happy that the bill was being passed, I didn’t think, considering the mood in the Country right now, ANY one would try to oppose it.

  5. If consensual sex before the age of 18 is considered rape – then we should ask these people who (guy or the girl) be termed as rapist? (Assuming that both are below 18). And what the punishment should be?

    That should be an interesting debate.

    • I fear, the biggest punishment will be being harassed by the police and random Indian taliban like groups :(

      In one case one Sunil More (a constable I think) threatened the boy away and raped the girl in the police thana – her screams were heard by people passing by, and the rapist is I think still in jail. This happened in Mumbai, near Chowpatty, the young couple (and some other friends with them) were sitting on the beach. Now it would be easy for the such people to blackmail and molest young women if they are ‘caught’ committing the crime of even shopping with a boy friend.

      • You’re right. The point i was trying to make though is – a debate like that – as to who be termed as the rapist – will expose the hyprocracies of those opposing it.

        I mean…..imagine Mulayam, debating as to why the Guy be tried and not the girl (or vice versa). What would he say – in the Parliament – the entire nation watching him. I really want this debate to happen.

  6. If the age of consent becomes 16, will it now legally okay for a man in his 40s to have sex with a 16-17 year old, since it will no longer be statutory rape?
    I agree with lowering the age to 16 -in spirit. However, trusting the judgement of sixteen-year-olds regarding older partners is something to think about.
    Most European nations, in spite of having lower ages of consent , have a ‘maximum age gap’ proviso – to prevent older men and women from exploiting the young.

    • Thats a very important point. See – like they say….a hard case makes a bad law. More & detailed debates are necessary. After all – its just 3 months since that rape….and we can’t have a brand new set of laws without exhaustive discussions. The common man does not know what has been discussed and what has not. It was the duty of the Govt to involve more people. Circulate it among the masses. Like in the article below – the definition of voyeurism etc are bound to be quite delicate. Need wider debates.

      An interesting article by the IE Editor: Shekhar Gupta

      http://www.indianexpress.com/news/national-interest-lawlipop-politics/1088792/

    • The age gap proviso (as far as I know) applies only when one of the two people is under the age of consent. This is to limit statutory rape liability in cases where one of the two people in the relationship is technically below the age of consent, but is otherwise very close in age to the other (e.g: a 17 and 19 year old in a jurisdiction where age of consent is 18).

      People who are above the age of consent are deemed mature enough to understand the consequences of sexual contact, and are therefore free to have consensual sex with anyone they please. What this age should be is always a somewhat arbitrary decision, because people do not mature at the same rate, mentally. The Western (and South/East Asian) norm is between 14 and 16, with some exceptions, while the Middle Eastern countries typically expect people to be married before they engage in sexual intercourse,

      Another point worth noting is that 18 is the age of consent in India only if the protagonists are unmarried. It is legal for an Indian man to have sex with a woman aged 16 if he is married to her.

      • Yes! Your last point has always been something that is quite troubling to me.I was going to comment on this till I saw PT had already brought it up.
        The age of consent as of today is DIFFERENT for married and unmarried girls/women in India- 16 and 18 respectively. It smacks of either terrible hypocrisy or of gross oversight.
        How can a ceremony of marriage fundamentally alter a woman’s mental maturity so as to cause an advancement of 2 whole years?

        • It is very much a deliberate provision.

          Repeated attempts have been made to change this state of affairs, with appeals being made to multiple governments formed by many different parties.

          All of these attempts, needless to say, have been unsuccessful in the face of the ridiculous ‘sanctity of marriage’ argument.

        • It is indeed, but this rule is enforced on a ‘complaint-only’ basis, so to speak.

          The marriage can and will be rendered null and void if someone complains, but not otherwise.

  7. It is scary not to see the reality around us. Children are exploring sex at younger ages and if we continue to close our eyes to this, we are running into a lot of trouble- unwanted pregnancy, way too young mothers, sexual disease, etc. We need to be able to talk these things out, educate young people for their emotional and physical well being. Also loved Priya’s analysis. We need to emphasize that men and women be brought up equally without boys being given a sense of entitlement about how they can behave in society as compared to girls. That is the biggest roadblock as I see it! Love your writing…..

  8. It has complicated legal ramifications imho. A direct effect would be the Suryanelli rape case, where they can now put the charges of trafficking, prostitution instead of rape (as the girl was 16). The other complication — legally you cannot get married or have an abortion before 18 without parent’s consent. For the majority of India’s population of girls, sexual exploitation and assault happens most during this age, lowering the age of so-called consent removes the protection of pressing rape charges against the exploiters.
    These are some of my concerns. I’m glad to hear carifications on this issue.

    • That shouldn’t be a complication and if it is, then we need to change some other laws. Even an 18 year old or a 30 year old for that matter who is sold into prostitution and then raped by 40 men should have legal recourse to get justice. Surely, we have legal provisions to handle this? Otherwise if the Suryanelli victim had happened to be two years older then we would have been ok to let her go without justice?

      “sexual exploitation and assault happens most during this age, lowering the age of so-called consent removes the protection of pressing rape charges against the exploiters.”
      I am guessing you mean that if the girl is under 18 then you don’t need any proof to convict the rapist as it’s statutory rape and that’s added protection. However, sexual exploitation and rape of an over-18 year old is still punishable. If we’re saying that our legal system is so inept that we cannot prove crimes, then all over-18 year olds are fair game right now.. so are we only worried about them from 16-18 years of age?

    • I am aghast at the way the Suryanelli case has been handled. The main onus of the defendant seems to be that she had consented to all the activities. BUT she was 16.Her consent was irrelevant-it was/is statutory rape!
      In my view, if the government can clarify that the ‘age of consent’ rule will only be used to criminalise the adults who attempt to have relations with people younger than “x”, then I don’t have a problem with x=18.
      If on the other hand , it is used to harass couples , both of whom are under the age of consent, it defeats the purpose.

  9. It’s interesting that the same ‘conservative norms’ also allow a man to rape a woman under 16 years of age with legal impunity, just as long as they are married.

    The hypocrisy is truly jarring.

      • Obviously, they do not, for the most part.

        Instead, they are detrimental to the dignity and autonomy of adult women, and negatively impact the breadth of opportunities for personal advancement available to young women vis-a-vis men.

        The most that can be said is that they provide a degree of personal (sometimes financial) privilege to older women who have married sons of their own.

    • Praveen, please pardon my poor understanding of the issue — here in the US, I believe it is considered a crime to have sex with an under-16 girl, even if it is consensual — and the culpability is entirely on the male (considering he is 16+, I guess). Is this what the legal age for consent is meant to achieve? If yes, it makes it that much easier for the law enforcement folks to get a conviction.. and feminists would have rooted for a higher legal age for consensual sex, because the fear of conviction will deter potential rapists.

      • It is meant to protect minors from exploitation by unscrupulous adults.

        Feminists tend to be divided on this issue. I know feminists who think that it is a travesty to even call this situation ‘rape’ (statutory or otherwise), and I also know other feminists who think it is a good idea to have a higher age of consent.

        My personal view is that 16 vs. 18 is a bit of a moot point. An 18 year old isn’t that much more mature than a 16-year old. The age of consent is always a somewhat arbitrary number, and is only really meaningful in legal (not sociological) terms.

        The real battle is not about some arbitrary age, but rather about the ideologies which prompt people to support (or oppose) a lower age of consent. It is the rationale that is important, not the precise number.

    • I have always detested this. Have consensual sex with your boyfriend at 16 = BAD. Get raped by a potentially much older ‘husband’ at 16 = GOOD. Shocking.

  10. You rightly pointed out on BJP double standard on the issue. it’s their politicl hypocrisy who opposes sex and almost everything based on religious extremism. But, when a girl is raped, they turn a blind eye to it. They are the same people who will assauly young people on V-Day.
    Vishal

  11. What I genuinely don’t understand is people’s concern about the immorality of ‘allowing’ 16 year olds’ to have sex, or even the more well intention-ed people who worry that kids are not mature enough at that age to engage in sexual relations.

    I mean, that’s really not what the law is about. Nobody is saying it’s acceptable for teenagers to have sex, neither is it meant to encourage them. That’s a matter of personal opinion, everyone is going to have different ideas of when the ‘right age’ is.

    All this law is meant to do is NOT criminalize consensual sex past a certain age. You think it’s immature (and maybe shocking) that two 16 year old kids are having sex? That’s fine. But surely, you don’t wish to brand them as rapists and have them thrown in jail for that, right?

    • Two 16-year olds would be able to engage in consensual sex in most jurisdictions (although not India, due to a bit of a legal glitch) even if the age of consent was higher.

      The idea is to regulate interactions between ADULTS and teenagers, not teenagers themselves.

  12. //Consider the persisting use of the term pre-marital sex. It sees marriage as the ‘normal’ place for sex, and assumes everyone is going to get married, that too by a certain age. Even the proposed alternative, non-marital sex, doesn’t really challenge this thinking (even if some contend that the term covers about 80 per cent of the sex that’s actually happening in the world).

    Lowering the age of consent simply acknowledges that 16-year-olds today, are both capable of, and likely to have, consensual sex. To term it statutory rape would be an injustice. The law acknowledges a principle. It’s hardly an invitation to anorgy.
    //
    http://www.mid-day.com/columnists/2013/mar/170313-opinion-paromita-vohra-no-sex-please-we-are-indian.htm
    Paromita Vohra

  13. IHM, I am not behind this age of consent reduction for a different reason, god knows what I hold for the BJP is not support. We’re looking at it from a very urban middle class viewpoint. Sure, a 17 year old who chooses to have sex with her boyfriend can’t be put in jail but more damaging to me will be the number of people let off for rape of children (no power, no control over either their bodies or their destiny) by whitewashing it as consensual sex.

    If a woman can’t get married until 18 and she already does, reducing the age of consent justifies this flawed reality. And seriously, how many urban boys and girls were actually jailed for consensual sex before this rule? Those doing it don’t declare it because of many reasons, only one of which is this rule….social sanction is much more powerful than the threat of jail…telling the family is a much bigger scare than anything else.

    From the standpoint of how we are not already able to enforce punishment on the books for crimes, we’re just making sure that people over 16 have no access to justice. Based on reported cases from 1983 to 2009, 75% of rapes happened in rural India. Just reported cases, we know that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

    • Reducing the age of consent will have no repercussions on girls who are married off before the legal age of 18. Due to the misplaced foresight of our lawmakers (who suspected that a legal age of marriage would not be taken very seriously in rural hinterlands) , the ‘age of consent’ for married women is ALREADY set at 16.
      In other words, having sex with a girl of 17 will be statutory rape today, if you are not married to her, but OKAY if you are husband. In fact, if you were her husband you could even force yourself on her , as marital rape is not a recognised offence.
      I would take the BJP more seriously if they justly called to INCREASE the age of consent of married women also to 18 (going by their logic of innocence, not corrupting the young, etc).

      • Meant that the law and reality have little connection when it comes to rural India. Have no respect for the BJP already, there’s little they can do to earn my respect. Think this whole discussion take away from the real issues, the age of consent means little when women aren’t given a chance to make their own minds up, 18 , 16 or 45!

  14. This is not the real issue. Media and women organizations have discovered artificial issue to discuss so that real issues are not discussed and unconstitutional laws can be passed without any dispute. Real issue is that men accused of rape will be put behind bars and they have to prove that they are innocent. This is atrocious. This tells that there are no human rights for men. Other laws that can be misused are related to voyeurism and stalking. Where it is easy to make false accusations on anybody and again men have to prove innocence. There is no law to punish women who wear revealing/provocative dresses. There is no protection for men who get routinely raped in prisons. This country is for women and job of men is to provide privileges to women.

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