The conflict between laws on the age of consent for sex will end soon with the government set to make changes in the criminal law to raise it from 16 to 18 years.
The controversy arose after Parliament last month passed a bill for the protection of children from sexual offences, which states that sex with a teenager below the age of 18, even if consensual, is a crime.
However, section 375 of the Indian Penal Code states: "A man is said to commit rape with a woman if he has sexual intercourse… with or without her consent, when she is under 16 years of age."
Following criticism over contradictory provisions, the law ministry has examined relevant laws and expedited the process to bring uniformity in them."It is a fact that, currently, there is a difference in relevant laws on the age for legal sex in India. The government is in the process of putting an end to all confusion," said a top ministry official.
He said a committee headed by former home secretary GK Pillai, with legislative affairs and law secretaries as members, had in its recommendations on rape laws already recommended that the age of consent be raised to 18 years.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, introduced by the women and child development ministry in Parliament in May, initially kept the age limit at 16 years, but raised it by two years following the recommendation of a parliamentary panel that examined the bill.
The panel had cited the United Nations Convention on Rights of Children and a number of Indian laws in favour of its argument.
"The committee notes that other laws such as the Indian Majority Act, the Indian Contract Act and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act define a child as one who has not completed 18 years of age," stated the parliamentary standing committee on human resource development.