Govt nod to 18 yrs as age bar for sex

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The government on Thursday approved a Bill making sexual contact with children below 18 a criminal offence even if it is consensual. For such crimes, the punishments to the offenders can go up to life imprisonment.

The Union Cabinet, however, decided to refer another similar legislation — “Protection of Women from Harassment at Workplace Bill 2010” to the GoM to be headed by home minister P. Chidambram.

Informing about the decisions, sources close to the meeting of the Union Cabinet, which was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said, “The government today cleared amendments suggested by the parliamentary standing committee in the Protection of Child from Sexual Offence Bill-2011.”

Now it will be introduced in Parliament during the current session of Parliament, they added.
Sources said, as of now, Section 375 of the IPC reads: “Rape will be committed with or without consent when the girl is under 16 years of age”.

But after the Parliament passes the Bill, it will mandate 18 years as the cut-off age for 'consensual sex' and offences committed will attract punishment up to life imprisonment, they added.

Incidentally, the amendment will also be in consonance with the country’s commitments towards UNCRC and Juvenile Justice Act-2000.

Meanwhile, the Union Cabinet has decided to refer “Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010” to the GoM, headed by the home minister.

The Bill, after the parliamentary standing committee’s recommendations, intends to include domestic help under the ambit of the proposed law.

Sources said, “Despite, the nodal ministry agreeing to the recommendations of the standing committee to include domestic help under the ambit of the proposed law, ministers in the Union Cabinet raised doubts about identifying them. Therefore, the matter has been referred to the GoM.”

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