Think before you legislate

In normal circumstances, consensual sex does not equal rape. But when the boy is nineteen and the girl is not yet sixteen, it is, according to S375 of the IPC. This is what the judgment on the reported case says-

Undisputedly, the victim was less than 16 years of age at the time of occurrence. Evidence also shows that the victim and accused were in love and the victim admitted that she had sexual intercourse with the accused because of that. That of course has no relevance because of her age being less than sixteen years.

(To read the complete judgment, visit the SC JUDIS website, and look up SLP (Crl.) No. 5967 of 2006.)

Why is the age for consent sixteen when exception is made in case of marriages (fifteen), or in case of the girl being from Manipur (fourteen and thirteen respectively)? And why does the law not consider the difference in the ages of the boy and girl but instead treats everyone on the same level (a nineteen year old and a forty year old are two different species)? And then there is the concept of turning into an adult – if someone is seventeen today, and turns eighteen tomorrow, what has really changed within one day when it comes to his or her actions? This is the problem with laws – the arbitrariness that creeps into the process, and the hard lines that are drawn without understanding that things cannot be compartmentalized that easily.

Cases like these show how incompetent governments and bureaucrats can be when it comes to the legislation. And those who write such arbitrary laws, those who pass them without understanding its implications, and those who are forced to implement such laws are equally responsible for the mess.

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