A year after the United Progressive Alliance government passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, raising the age of consent for sex from 16 years to 18, the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up on Tuesday to suggest changes in the new draft law to check crimes against women has recommended reducing it to 16.
Currently, Section 375 of the IPC says that one of the conditions for rape is that the woman, “with or without her consent… is under sixteen years of age.” If this provision goes through, then the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 will have to be amended to bring it in line with this law.
With the GoM, headed by Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, completing its deliberations here on Wednesday evening, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 is now ready for the Union Cabinet which will meet on Thursday to clear it.
The GoM has also recommended, in deference to the demands made by women’s groups, that the expression “sexual assault” be replaced by the word “rape”, and that the act be made gender-specific and used to describe the rape of a woman by a man, not a rape of a man by a man.
In an effort to put in some safeguards, the first offence of voyeurism will be bailable and, on the second occasion, non-bailable. But stalking, one of the most contentious elements in the draft law, will remain a non-bailable offence, government sources said.