Are We Ready To Lower The Age Of Sexual Consent To Sixteen?
The Madras Court has observed that any consensual relationships between teenagers aged 16 to 18 should not come under purview of POSCO Act. According to The Hindustan Times, Justice V Parthiban said that, “Any consensual sex after the age of 16 or bodily contact or allied acts could be excluded from the rigorous provisions of POCSO Act, and sexual assault could be tried under more liberal provisions which can be introduced in the Act, differentiating sexual assault and teenage relationships.”
- The Madras Court has observed that any consensual relationships between teenagers aged 16 to 18 should not come under purview of POSCO Act.
- Most boys and girls above the age of sixteen understand the concept of consent. Thus we should not look at teen relationships falling in that age bracket as a crime.
- However, children below eighteen are still impressionable and immature.
- Lowering the age of consent can put them in harm’s way.
When both parties, despite being juvenile, are old enough to understand the consequences of sex and value of consent, shouldn’t we let them proceed with their own sense of caution and stop policing? Alas, this isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
The reason behind this, as observed in the report, is that a sizeable number such arrests are often teenage boys who are in consensual relationships with girls. Since, girls and boys in late teens understand the concept of agency and consent, we shouldn’t look at a consensual intercourse among them as a crime. Enraged parents on either side may use this provision out of anger. Thus, a teen could end up behind the bars despite his or her relationship with their partner being consensual. Isn’t is unfair to them? When both parties, despite being juvenile, are old enough to understand the consequences of sex and value of consent, shouldn’t we let them proceed with their own sense of caution and stop policing? Alas, this isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
We may advocate lowering of the age of consent to sixteen on these grounds, but the kind of society which we are raising our children in, such a ruling could only leave them more vulnerable. Children above 16 are mature for sure, but they are still impressionable. They stand a risk of being manipulated into consensual relationships or groomed by predatory adults. Physical maturity, sense of agency and sexual desires doesn’t necessarily translate into psychological maturity to withstand manipulative pedophiles.
Physical maturity, sense of agency and sexual desires doesn’t necessarily translate into psychological maturity to withstand manipulative pedophiles.
We teach our kids about good touch and bad touch, but do we teach them about how to discriminate between good intentions from bad ones? That someone may be purely trying to take physical advantage of them under the guise of romantic intentions? There is a reason the age of voting is 21 in our country, and while the drinking age is a matter of controversy, would we approve if that age is lowered to 16? Why should age of consent be any different then? The problem is not with children being sexually active in their teens, as this is quite normal in many countries across the world. It is the way we raise our kids, constantly policing them and protecting them, seldom allowing them to mature outside of the realms that we want them to.
Our style of parenting, plus the general taboo around the topic of sex education, mixed with easily available porn, which sets false expectations and ideas, is a heady cocktail which our kids aren’t ready to consume. We do not teach our kids about sexual safety and how it is more than just satisfying physical needs or ticking a thing off their “adulting” list. Women are still being policed with curfew hours on one hand at hostels, and boys are still being preached that the more girls you have sex with, the more manly you are. Where are our kids getting these ideas from? Even if their relationships are consensual, are they approaching something as intimate and risqué as intercourse with the right context?
So the appeal to lower the age of consent may have noble intentions at heart, but before we implement it, let us ensure that we as a society and our children are ready for it. We must ensure that teens are armed with knowledge and caution before they get a free pass to act out on their raging hormones.
Picture Credit: Dr. Gayle Friend
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.