ADITI TANDON IN THE TRIBUNE New Delhi, January 11 /2012
The government has decided to amend the draft law on protection of children from sexual offences and scrap the provision treating 16 years as the age of consent for sexual acts with children. Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath today said that everyone under the age of 18 would be treated as a child for the purpose of the Bill, introduced in the Rajya Sabha on March 23 last.
In doing so, the ministry agreed to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development which submitted its report on the draft law on December 21 last during the winter session.The committee approved the Bill, but rejected the government’s stand on treating 16 years as the age of consent and not classifying as offences consensual sexual acts with children aged 16 to 18 years.
The ministry is further agreeable on another suggestion by the committee with respect to the landmark law to protect women from sexual harassment at workplace. The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill 2010 that the Ministry introduced in the Rajya Sabha last year had excluded domestic servants from its ambit.
But Tirath today said she was for inclusion of domestic servants despite the challenges of defining households as workplaces. “I am for scrapping 16 years as the age of consent in case of sexual offences against children and for extending the protection of women from sexual harassment at workplace Bill to cover domestic servants. We will soon come up with our position officially,” Tirath told The Tribune.
In agreeing to include domestic servants under the law, the Ministry of Child Development conceded to the position the National Commission for Women took in its draft law on the subject.The NCW had been working on this Bill for long but the ministry finally piloted its own version of the law in the Rajya Sabha and excluded domestic servants from the ambit saying codes of conduct could not be enforced in the privacy of homes.
Rejecting the ministry’s stand, the House Committee cited NCW’s position: “The privacy of home argument is unfounded as the enactment of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 had shown that legal scrutiny can be offered in homes.”Punjab and Gujarat had backed the House Committee on the issue of including four million domestic servants under the said law, so had the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council.
Anti-sex crime law
- 7-year imprisonment extending to life for penetrative sexual assault defined for the first time in the law.
- 10-yr imprisonment extending to life for aggravated sexual assault defined as penetrative sexual assault using deadly weapons; act that leaves a child incapacitated; all sexual offences by police/security personnel
- Imprisonment of five years for aggravated sexual assault defined in the Bill.
- Stripping, blackmailing, stalking with sexual intent covered
- Child pornography punishable with 5 years