Child, law, and consensual sex

Source: The post is based on the article “Child, law, and consensual sex” published in “The Hindu” on 26th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections

News: The author discusses the recent High Court judgements related to the POCSO Act of 2012. It highlights issues with interpreting the age of consent in cases involving minors and suggests the need for clearer guidelines and potential amendments to the act.

About POCSO Act, 2012

Read here: What is the POCSO Act?

What is the issue with the recent High Court judgement related to the POCSO Act of 2012?

Ignoring Age of Consent: The High Courts, in certain cases, overlooked the set age of consent. For instance, the Delhi High Court released an accused citing the 15-year-old girl’s willful involvement.

Consent Complexity: Judgments have given weight to the “consent” argument, even when involved parties were minors, like the Bombay High Court quashing a conviction involving a 17-year-old.

Not Prioritizing Vulnerability: The courts didn’t emphasize the vulnerability of minors or the potential power imbalances in relationships with significant age gaps.

Overlooking Consequences: In some judgments, the repercussions faced by the minors, such as early pregnancies, weren’t adequately examined.

Potential Precedent Issues: These varied judgments might set diverse precedents, leading to inconsistency in future case rulings.

Contrary to POCSO’s Objective: Some rulings might soften the act’s primary objective, which is to protect children from sexual offenses.

What should be done?

Clarity from Supreme Court: There’s a need for a clear directive or guideline from the Supreme Court to ensure uniformity in judgments.

Re-evaluate Age of Consent: Consider recommendations on reducing the age of consent from 18 to 16 but ensure this doesn’t expose adolescents to potential harm.

Data-driven Approach: The Bureau of Police Research and Development should analyze cases of consensual sex across states to help the Central government make informed decisions.

Best Interest of Child: Prioritize the ‘best interest of the child’ in all judgments.

Balanced Punishments: Re-examine the severe punishments under POCSO, ensuring they are deterrents but not excessively harsh.

Educate Judiciary: Conduct regular training sessions for the judiciary on the nuances of the POCSO Act.

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