Thursday, June 17, 2004

Gya: Entering the 21st century

Child rights activists are trying to mobilise more support to raise the age of consent to eighteen.

They are also grappling with the issue of how to allow sexual relationships between partners under that age or with an age difference of less than three years while not appearing to be promoting underage sex.
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The initiative to change the law was sparked by recent revelations about businessman Reeaz Khan's sexual relationship with a girl of 13, which is the legal age of consent under the provisions of the Criminal Law Offences Act.

The law now says that anyone who unlawfully and carnally knows any girl of or above the age of twelve and under the age of thirteen is guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to ten years imprisonment.

That is, unless, the accused can prove that he had reasonable cause to believe that the girl was of, or above age thirteen.

Yesterday, the participants reaffirmed their agreement to raise the age of consent to eighteen, while suggesting a penalty of imprisonment not exceeding ten years for offenders, rather than a term of life imprisonment.

Some participants felt a life term might be too harsh for offenders and offer little scope for their rehabilitation.

There was also some debate over whether there should be a provision for a minimum penalty, since, as one participant pointed out, there would still be judicial discretion that would allow a judge to give a one-month sentence.

The proposal also uses the term "child" instead of "girl" as in the current legislation, to protect boys from sexual assault.

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