Mumbai, on July 14th.
The Bombay High Court said that many countries have lowered the age at which young people can legally have consensual sexual relationships. They believe that it is important for our country and Parliament to be aware of what other countries are doing.
A judge named Justice Bharati Dangre recently expressed worry about the growing number of criminal cases involving the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. In these cases, teenagers who say they were in a consensual relationship are being punished, which the judge finds concerning.
Sexual autonomy means having the freedom to have sex when you want to, and being safe from someone forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to. The text is saying that in order for young people’s rights regarding their sexuality to be fully respected, both aspects of their rights need to be acknowledged.
The court spoke about a case where a 25-year-old man disagreed with a decision made by a special court. The special court had found him guilty of raping a 17-year-old girl in February 2019.
The man and the girl said that they agreed to be in a relationship. The girl said in court that she believed she was old enough to get married under Muslim law, so she got married to the man accused of a crime.
Justice Dangre canceled the guilty verdict and declared the man not guilty. The evidence presented clearly showed that the sex was consensual. Justice Dangre also ordered for the man to be freed from prison.
The age when someone can legally agree to have sex must be different from the age when someone can get married. This is because people have sex outside of marriage. It is important for both society and the court system to understand this. The high court mentioned this.
Over the years, India has passed laws to raise the minimum age at which someone can give their consent for certain activities. From 1940 until 2012, the age of consent in India was 16. However, the POCSO Act later changed it to 18 years, which is higher than what most other countries have set (usually between 14 and 16 years). This was mentioned by the High Court.
In Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Hungary, children who are 14 or older are allowed to agree to have sex. The court said that in London and Wales, the legal age to give consent is 16, while in Japan it is 13.
Justice Dangre explained that if a girl is younger than 18 years old, it is expected that she should not participate in sexual activity. Even if she does participate willingly, her consent is not considered valid in the eyes of the law.
If a 20-year-old boy has sex with a 17-year-old girl, he would be considered guilty of rape even if the girl says that she was also involved in the act. The court said that young people under the age of 18 are not seen as being able to give proper permission for having consensual sex in the eyes of the law.
“A situation of being physically attracted or infatuated always arises when a teenager starts a sexual relationship. It is important for our country to also be aware of what is happening in the rest of the world,” explained Justice Dangre in the judgment.
She said that our country needs to pay attention and see what is happening in the world.
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