Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Tuesday cited the 153-year-old Indian Penal Code to defend his proposal for lowering the consent age for sex to 16 years, days after the anti-rape Bill passed by Parliament retained the age at 18.
Shinde, who was speaking at a conference on police reforms in the country, termed the criticism of his move for lowering the age as ‘ignorance of law’ by some people.
"The consent age of 16 years was incorporated in the IPC in 1860. No one had looked into it (then) but when my ordinance came for correcting this...whole Parliament was against it. But I brought it to the notice there (that) this law (of 16 years age) was in existence but we have not realised that it was in existence.
"Can we say ignorance of law is not permissible that this country permitted (sic)?," Shinde said. However, the minister, while making this assertion, did not mention about Child Marriage Act, which came into force in 2007, and Child Trafficking Act under which the definition of child has been fixed below 18 years.
The Parliamentarians, during the discussion on this crucial issue, wanted a parity between the IPC and other laws that have been enacted later. Terming as 'eye opener' the ghastly Delhi rape incident of December 16, Shinde assured government's active efforts to check crime against women.
"That (rape incident) has opened our eyes. Everyday there are rapes. It (the incident) happened in Delhi. All citizens came forward. Everybody right from the press, judiciary and government. It has opened our eyes... Today we have taken cognisance and a law has been passed (to check) disrobing of women," he said at conference whose theme was 'Safety and Security: Need for police reforms' organised by Assocham in New Delhi.
To a question on existence of fear of insecurity among women, Shinde said the fear of insecurity in women will go.
"Yes, there is a fear at the moment. But that will go. We should not forget a large number of girls were going to BPOs and there was no fear. If an incident (December 16) has happened, we have to correct ourselves. Ours is a civilized society," he added.