The reduction of the age of consent from 18 years to 16 years of age will have a negative impact on the fight against child marriage and child trafficking, the Law Commission of India noted in its submitted report on the matter.
The report from the law commission stated that to ensure that children get the best environment to grow and flourish, it is necessary to increase awareness regarding child sexual abuse and the different forms in which it can happen.
As a part of the school curriculum, children may be made aware of their bodies and various physiological and psychological changes they experience as a part of growing up, the report further stated.
Information about sex and the ill effects of engaging in it at a young age can better equip children to make healthier and safer choices, mentioned the commission.
Government programs like Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram and comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education has to be made a mandatory part of school curriculum in order to inform and empower the adolescent population of the country, stated the report.
The Law Commission of India in its report to the Ministry of Law and Justice also suggested that adolescents in the age bracket of 16 to 18 years still remain children who ought to enjoy higher protection of the law and the age of consent cannot be disturbed either by reducing or introducing a limited exception.
It further states that even though close-in-age exemptions have been largely considered inadequate to deal with the present situation, the Commission considers that the age difference between the victim-child and the accused in such romantic cases ought to be a relevant factor that is to be carefully considered by the court.
However, in light of the existing ground realities, if the age difference between the victim child and the accused is less than three years, the Commission is of the considered view that the introduction of judicial discretion in the matter of sentencing can help alleviate the plight of those truly aggrieved.
A child can be prosecuted as an adult in cases of heinous offences under the JJ Act. Offences defined under Sections 3 and 7 of the POCSO Act are heinous in nature and there is always the danger of the child being tried as an adult even though the sexual act had been consensual. Thus, changes are also required to be brought within the JJ Act in order to ensure that in such cases of romantic relationships, the child is not tried as an adult and gets the benefit of a trial in accordance with the JJ Act, suggested Law Commission of India.