The Rajya Sabha was informed today by the government that there are no intentions to lower the legal age of consent for consensual relationships.
Women and Child Development Union Minister Smriti Irani, responded in writing that the topic “does not arise” in response to a query on whether the government is exploring lowering the current age of consent for consensual partnerships from 18 to 16.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act of 2012, which was passed to protect children from sexual abuse and sexual offences, according to the minister, defines a child as anyone under the age of 18. To deter offenders and stop similar crimes against children, the Act was further revised in 2019 to add harsher penalties, including the death penalty, for sexual offences against children.
“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 such person and it shall record in writing its reasons for such determination,” Ms Irani said.
The minister said that the age for attaining majority under the Majority Act of 1875, as revised in 1999, is 18. In response to another written question on child marriages, the minister informed the Rajya Sabha that, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of cases of child marriages reported has increased over the past few years. However, the minister added that this does not necessarily indicate an increase in the number of child marriage cases; it could also be the result of greater awareness.
There were reported 523 child marriages in 2019, 785 in 2020, and 1050 in 2021.
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