POCSO and young adults: Should consensual sex be legalised?

They just knew that they were made to be together but their parents and the POCSO Act wanted otherwise. Two years after being caught, Shobhit* (name changed), who was sent to a juvenile home for rape, and Shanta (name changed) are now 18 and can’t wait to be back together Can. Lawyers and activists say […]
 


POCSO and young adults: Should consensual sex be legalised?

They just knew that they were made to be together but their parents and the POCSO Act wanted otherwise. Two years after being caught, Shobhit* (name changed), who was sent to a juvenile home for rape, and Shanta (name changed) are now 18 and can’t wait to be back together Can. Lawyers and activists say the couple’s case is representative of the many innocent young adults trapped in a loophole in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, which sets the age of consent at 18.

Shanta* told PTI, “I kept shouting that it was a lie and that we had consensual sex, but no one listened. They all thought I had been misled.” Over the years, the POCSO Act, which seeks to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, has often come into conflict with the role of consent in determining the nature of relationships between juveniles.

The Act defines a child as a person below the age of 18 years.

According to section 6 of the POCSO Act, “Whoever commits aggravated sexual assault shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of Imprisonment for shall be liable for the natural life of that person and with fine, or also with death.”

Child rights lawyer Ananth Kumar Asthana said the way the law has been implemented in cases involving minors in consensual sex has “caused tension and anxiety among all sections and this concern has received particular attention from the judiciary”. Worth giving”.

He said that many times such cases are not only of love affair but of live-in relationship, which is recognized in case of adults.

He said, “Sometimes these minors also get married. Therefore, in such cases, both boys and girls are punished by applying POCSO.”

Recently, the Delhi High Court said that the objective behind the POCSO Act is to protect children from sexual exploitation and it was never intended to criminalize consensual romantic relationships between young adults.

The court made the observation while granting bail to a boy who married a 17-year-old girl and was held under the Act enacted in 2012.

HAQ: Tara Nirula, child rights advocate at the Center for Child Rights, said this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Nirula said, ‘There are laws like Romeo and Juliet law all over the world. In some countries the age of consent is below 16, I think something like this needs to be done. Courts should also be lenient in such matters.

Civil rights activist Yogita Bhayana stressed the need to clearly define the allegations based on a girl’s statement so that people in consensual relationships do not get caught in such cases.

“It’s happening to a lot of boys and we have a lot of cases like that,” he said. However, child rights activist Sunita Krishnan said this is an unexplored area. About 90 per cent of cases under the POCSO Act are extortion, said Krishnan, co-founder of Prajwala, an NGO that rescues, rehabilitates and re-integrates sex-trafficking victims into society.

“The possible possibility of sexual abuse in such cases can never be ruled out,” he added. Krishnan further said, “A balance has to be struck, the situation is so gray that one cannot say whether it is wrong or right.” The Padma Shri awardee suggested that a separate section may be added to the POCSO Act which states that sex should not only be forced but it can also be between two consenting people.

 

POCSO and young adults: Should consensual sex be legalised?