Lok Sabha debates anti-rape bill, views differ on age of consent
Lok Sabha members Tuesday stressed the importance of preventing misuse of the provisions of the anti-rape bill introduced in the house by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, while opinions diverged on the proposal to keep the age of consent at 18.
The government, bowing to political pressure, retained the age of consent for sex at 18 years in the bill, which was approved by the cabinet Monday. It had earlier decided to lower it to 16 under the proposed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013.
Participating in the debate, Congress member Sandeep Dikshit said he had doubts over the provision of fixing 18 as age of consent.
"If a girl and boy aged between 16 and 18 get into physical relations, would they be called criminals?" he asked.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Sumitra Mahajan defended the decision to keep the age of consent at 18, but noted steps should be taken to prevent misuse of the bill provisions.
She cited two instances of misuse of the law and said in one of the cases, the man falsely accused of rape had committed suicide.
Opposing suggestions to include marital rape in the provisions of the bill on grounds that it will weaken the institution of family, Mahajan said India had a joint family system and the elders act as buffer and provide counseling in case of marital problems.
Samajwadi Party member Shailendra Kumar supported the bill but said there was need to take special care to prevent misuse of its provisions.
He said the provisions of the bill could lead to change in attitude of employers in recruiting women.
Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said that provisions of the bill could make it difficult for women to find employment.
"People will be afraid," he said, adding that the biggest reason for suffering of women was caste discrimination.
Sharad Yadav also warned the bill will lead to "jails being filled" as courts were already overburdened with cases.
He said that the bill was a short-term solution thought by the government and there was need for long-term measures.
In a lighter vein, he said young men sometimes chase women in order to woo them.
In his short intervention, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said that if he had chosen to speak, he would have proved there was no need for the bill.
"Will law stop (crimes)?" he asked, saying the bill sought to enhance powers of police.
Kalyan Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress said the people need to be made aware of the provisions of the bill.
Bahujan Samaj Party member Dara Singh Chauhan supported the bill, while Anirudhan Sampath of the Communist Party of India-Marxist demanded some amendments.
Pinaki Misra of the Biju Janata Dal said that age of consent should have been brought down to 16, as fixing it at 18 could lead to cases of harassment by police.