8888677771 | Calcutta HC calls for decriminalisation of consensual sex involving adolescents above 16 years

Calling for decriminalisation of consensual sexual acts involving adolescents above 16 years, the Calcutta High Court, in a recent order, suggested that every female adolescent should “control sexual urge/urges” and “protect her right to integrity of her body”.

Hearing a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the court set aside the conviction of the appellant, who is the maternal uncle of the prosecutrix, stating that this is a case of “non-exploitative consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adolescents though consent in view of the age of the victim is immaterial”.

Explained | Should the age of consent be changed for adolescents?

The Bench of Justices Chitta Ranjan Dash and Partha Sarathi Sen, however, added that the case should not be treated as a precedent.

“It is the duty/obligation of every female adolescent to: protect her right to integrity of her body; protect her dignity and self-worth; thrive for overall development of her self transcending gender barriers; control sexual urge/urges as in the eyes of the society she is the loser when she gives in to enjoy the sexual pleasure of hardly two minutes; protect her right to autonomy of her body and her privacy,” the October 18 judgment said.

For male adolescents, the Bench said they should “respect the aforesaid duties of a young girl or woman and he should train his mind to respect a woman, her self worth, her dignity and privacy, and right to autonomy of her body”.

Parental guidance

The court stressed the need for parental guidance for adolescents and requisite sex education with emphasis on the aforesaid aspects and reproductive health and hygiene should be a part of the curriculum of every school.

Also Read | POCSO and the persecution of young love  

“We do not want our adolescents to do anything that will push them from the dark to the darker side of life. It is normal for each adolescent to seek the company of the opposite sex but it is not normal for them to engage in sex devoid of any commitment and dedication,” the verdict said.

The High Court added that it does not propose to tinker with the age of consent in the POCSO Act. “We leave it to the Law Commission of India and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to deliberate on this aspect to give their suggestions to the appropriate government,” the order said.

The trial court had awarded the appellant imprisonment for 20 years and a fine of ₹10,000 under Section 6 of the POCSO Act. The Bench also noted that the victim submitted before the court that she out of her own volition had married the accused (appellant) in 2019 and has given birth to a female child.

Earlier on August 23, 2023, the court had granted bail to the accused after the victim said it was difficult for her to maintain the family consisting of her ailing mother-in-law and the small child by earning herself. The Division Bench also took note of the victim’s statement that she and her husband belong to a rural area and they do not have knowledge that their relationship and marriage constitute an offence.

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