The decision of the government to reduce the age of consent for sex to 16 years will mean that the protection given under the law to protect children from sexual crimes will also be lowered to 16 years.
Government officials concede that last week's cabinet decision to lower the age of consent for sex to 16 in the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, will end up stripping victims, specially girls in the 16-18 age bracket of adequate safeguards available to them under POCSO.
They would now be treated as adults under the IPC.
"Under POCSO, the burden of proof is on the accused so as to prevent the re-victimization of child during trial. Following the amendment, those between 16 and 18 years can be treated as victims as well as accused. It defeats the very objective of this special law to safeguard victim's interest," said a WCD ministry official.
POCSO defines child as anybody below 18 and considers consent for sex under 18 as irrelevant.
"It has several child friendly provisions for reporting of offences, recording of evidence, and trial, which those between 16 and 18 won't be able to avail of now.
"POCSO does not permit cross examination of victims under 18 and mandates that a child's statement be recorded at her residence by a cop, who is not in a uniform. It also allows for an in-camera trial. These safeguards won't be available to victims between 16 and 18 years," said the official.