The UPA government once again finds itself on the back foot over the proposed anti-rape law. With a series of flip-flops owing to pressure from opposition and allies it has now reverted to fixing 18 years as the age of consent for sex.
With Lok Sabha set to take up the criminal laws (amendment) bill on Tuesday the new provisions are likely to get the Parliament’s nod by the end of the week.
New changes will put in place a revised definition of rape and will fix the age of consent for sex to 18 years, nearly three decades after it was set at 16 years by the Parliament.
Following the December 16 gang rape in the capital, the Justice JS Verma panel was appointed by the government. In its recommendations, it proposed retaining the gender specific offence of rape in IPC and the age of consent for sex at 16 years.
In the ordinance issued on February 3, however, the government replaced the term rape with sexual assault and fixed the age of consensual sex at 18 years to bring uniformity in all laws dealing with sexual offences, since the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act passed by Parliament last year had put this age at 18 years.
Following protests by women’s groups, in its bill to replace the ordinance, the government earlier this month decided to retain rape and keep the age at 16 years. But divisions within the cabinet and pressure from opposition forced the government to increase the age of consent to 18 years.