At the age of 16, girls are not mature enough to give an informed consent for sex, say psychiatrists opposed to the recent proposal to reduce the age of consensual sex from 16 to 18 years of age for rape laws.
Doctors said that there is no evidence to show that a 16-year old girls are mature enough to take a decision on sex.
“In terms of both physical and neuro-hormonal development, 18 is the benchmark for girls and 21 is the benchmark for boys.
"There is no evidence, either psychological or epidemiological, that 16 years of age is the age of maturity,” said Dr Alka Subramanyam, assistant professor, department of Psychiatry, BYL Nair Hospital.
“These children, who are just out of school live a very centered life. I think those two years of experience in college is when they blossom as individuals. Girls below the age of 16 are too naïve to say no to a person seeking sex because of their lack of understanding and awareness.”
Doctors said that many girls who had sex without thinking it through come out of the experience with negative emotions.
“Reducing the age of consent will send a message that girls below the age of 16 can have sex. Many such girls who come to us feel extremely guilty, and lose self-esteem. We should have comprehensive sex education before we take this step,” said Dr Harish Shetty, consulting psychiatrist, LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai.
Some doctors feel that we cannot ignore the reality of increased exposure to sex among children. “Since we are becoming more exposed to media and Internet, sexual awareness has increased.
"The more we are exposed to it, the more we are aware about whether it is right or wrong,” said Dr Gurvinder Kalra, assistant professor of psychiatry, MGM Medical College, Navi Mumbai.