Consensual Teen Sex Should Be Excluded From POCSO, Says Madras HC
In a significant observation acknowledging teen sexuality, the Madras High Court on April 27 said that it should be removed from the purview of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Reportedly, the court recommended that POCSO should be amended to exclude consensual sex after 16 years of age for a girl and a boy who is not more than five years elder to her and it should not be considered to be a sexual offence.
What did the court say?
Justice V Parthiban made these suggestions while hearing a case filed by a man alleging that the accused, who was over 18 years of age had abducted his granddaughter, who was 17 at the time and had engaged in penetrative sexual assault.
The youth, who was convicted under the POCSO Act for ‘kidnapping a minor girl’ and ‘sexually assaulting her’, and spent the last five years behind the bars was set free by the court. He observed that it was a case of elopement and not kidnapping. Experts have reportedly often pointed out as to how the act is sometimes misused by irate parents of daughters who elope.
According to Bar and Bench, the court in its ruling said, “When the girl below 18 years is involved in a relationship with the teenage boy or little over the teenage, it is always a question mark as to how such relationship could be defined, though such relationship would be the result of mutual innocence and biological attraction. Such relationships cannot be construed as an unnatural one or alien to between relationship of opposite sexes.” It suggested the redefinition of the term ‘Child’ under Section 2(d) of the POCSO Act as a person below 16 years of age instead of 18 years.
The Judge took note of the fact that a majority of cases which involves minor girls are due to relationships between adolescent boys and girls. According to Live Law, the more liberal provision can be introduced in the Act to distinguish genuine cases. The court also noted that the State should do the needful to create more awareness regarding the POCSO law.
Swagata Raha, a legal researcher, told The News Minute, “ While the acknowledgement of teen sexuality is welcome, we need to be careful to not hastily amend the Act to make the age of consent 16 without proper analysis of the trends. Lawmaking needs to be based on evidence.” Presently, sexual relations with a person below the age of 18 would constitute a sexual offence under the POCSO Act and would entail rigorous imprisonment.