Hormones and the law

The recent case of a 12-year-old boy fathering a child with his 17-year-old cousin has raised some serious questions.

Published: 28th March 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th March 2017 07:36 AM   |  A+A-

The recent case of a 12-year-old boy fathering a child with his 17-year-old cousin has raised some serious questions. To begin with, due to the nature of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2013—a progressive and necessary law in many ways —underage consensual sex has been criminalized.

Second, the law makes reporting of child sexual abuse mandatory, rendering it impossible for a child to access safe medical care—which ought to be a priority —without necessarily being drawn into reporting rape.

While mandatory reporting no doubt helps those children being subject to abuse, it risks pushing teenagers either wanting an abortion or safe delivery after consensual sex with an age peer underground.

The issue at its core is the need to understand that children have sexuality and teenagers across the world experiment sexually. However, Indian law which recognises marital rape only if the victim is under 15 and yet says all sexual activity under 18 is illegal while leaving child brides over the age of 15 open to rape, is confused.

It is confused on age of sexual consent, it is confused on what constitutes a child and it is utterly blind to the possibility that young people may have sex. Some other countries, such as Germany and Canada, have recognised the possibility of minors having sex with others minors with close-in-age exceptions. It must be noted the minimum age of consent they recognise is 14.

Recognising that minors have sex also means coming to terms with the reality that Indian youth are exposed to very little in the way of gender sensitisation as well as sex education. Children are not taught about their bodies and the normal desires they will have.

If there is one thing worse than ignoring that children and teenagers can be sexual beings, it is to leave them to find out about sex and sexuality from dubious sources. Especially when they could be punished for consensually experimenting under the current laws.


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