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Don't lower the age of consent to 16!

Last updated on: March 18, 2013 18:38 IST

A 16-year-old does not dream of becoming pregnant. She does not dream of becoming a mother. It's not an age when she can rationally decide whether she wants to sleep with any man or boy who asks her, feels A Ganesh Nadar.

Why is this age called sweet sixteen?

It is because the girl is still innocent.

She is in Standard X and will soon attempt her first public exam. She is the older than most of the other children in her school, so she feels on top of the world.

Though she is getting used to the changes in her body, she still has to come to terms with impending adulthood. Her teacher's approval is still more important than approval from her friends.

This is the age when she will have her first crush -- maybe on a movie star, a sports icon or the science teacher.

The first stirrings of love in her heart make her particularly vulnerable.

The boy who played with her since kindergarten now seems manly. Though she has known him for a decade, he now seems mysterious. Such is the sweetness of this age.

But is it the age of consent?

She is not old enough to drive.

She is not allowed to hold a bank account by herself; it has to held jointly with an adult.

She is not considered sensible enough to choose who will head the next government; she will have to wait two more years before she can vote.

But she is considered old enough to have a child.

Our government took insensitivity to a new height when they came up with this atrocious idea that the age of consent should be 16.

Clearly, if she is allowed to say yes to sex at 16, it also means she is allowed to become pregnant.

There are enough pregnant teenagers in the Western world. And, before you jump on me, I am not saying there are no pregnant teenagers here. I am just saying there are fewer pregnant teens as compared to the West.

Will the first call of love deny the first call of passion? Will she refuse her boyfriend's touch after declaring undying love?

Her answer will depend on her family and what they have told her about sex and safe sex. But can we really expect such openness in our prudish society?

The best advice I have heard in my village on this particular topic came from a 50-year-old woman called Nalayni. A girl was walking with a 50-year-old man; his hand was wrapped around her shoulder. Nalayni warned the girl, 'Don't let men touch you.'

The girl was 10 years old.

Will that girl remember Nalayni's words when she is 16 and in love?

If you ask men, they will tell you loud and clear that it is the young who are the most gullible. The easiest to fool are the poor. And to be young, poor and a girl. Ah! It's a sin in this country.

Many a girl, at the tender age of 16 or younger, is molested, seduced, raped by rich village landlords, high caste priests, rich visiting Arabs. Then, they attempt to appease her and her family with money, clothes or gifts

The younger the girl, the more is she is worth. And sadly, if she comes from a family that is desperately poor or selfishly greedy, they will attempt to utilise this wealth.

The only hiccup, for these kind of men, is that having sex with a child is a criminal offence. More importantly, as far as they are concerned, societal backlash can be vicious if you are ever caught with your pants down with a young girl.

It is this fear of society, and not the fear of the law, has kept many a lusty man in check.

Show me how many 16-year-old Indian girls will go to an Indian police station to report that they have been molested or raped. When a young girl is beaten up in public, and we can watch it on national television, can you imagine what could happen to a young girl inside a police station?

I don't have to spell it out; such incidents are reported regularly.

This is why the Tamil Nadu government has opened one 'all-women' police station in every district in the state.

At 16, a girl still looks at the world with tinted glasses.

At 16, her biggest dream to come first in school.

She wants to the best dressed girl, the fastest athlete in the field, the best student in her class.

She does not dream of becoming pregnant.

She does not dream of becoming a mother.

It's not an age when she can rationally decide whether she wants to sleep with any man or boy who asks her.

Sixteen is NOT the age of consent.

I don't know why they call them experts, this group of ministers who decide everything under the sun in this land.

What happened to the super Cabinet, the National Advisory Council headed by the great Sonia Gandhi? Why doesn't she have anything to say about this?

Save our 16-year-old girls from rape.

Save them from beasts that we call men.

Save them from the pimps who want to make a fortune selling their innocence.

The age of consent should be raised to 21; it should certainly not be reduced to 16.

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A Ganesh Nadar