Young Hearts Run Free

Law should not pun­ish con­sen­sual teen sex­u­al­ity

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION -

The Supreme Court’s ver­dict that sex with a girl be­low the age of 18 amounts to rape, is meant as a pro­tec­tive ges­ture to­wards child brides. But it also ends up mak­ing crim­i­nals out of will­ing young lovers, and fails to tackle the prob­lem at the root. Child mar­riage should be legally void, rather than merely void­able when one of the part­ners gets around to it. This judg­ment threat­ens to pun­ish teens for con­sen­sual, happy sex­ual ex­plo­ration that seems like the most nat­u­ral thing in the world at that age.

Com­bined with the POCSO Act, which also casts ado­les­cent boys who are in­volved with girls their own age as preda­tors, In­dian law ac­cepts no zone of sex­ual free­dom. Young girls are seen only as vul­ner­a­ble ob­jects of pro­tec­tion or way­ward threats, their own de­sires deemed not to ex­ist. But the ex­pres­sion of sex­u­al­ity is not sex­ual vi­o­lence or abuse.

Teens will ex­per­i­ment, no pu­rity cam­paign or le­gal fiat can stop that, but the law gives par­ents and au­thor­i­ties in­or­di­nate power to po­lice and pun­ish ado­les­cent boys. At a time when even an adult woman’s mar­riage is seen as in­doc­tri­na­tion be­cause her spouse’s re­li­gion of­fended her fa­ther, when a woman’s right to choose her ro­man­tic destiny is cast as love ji­had, what are the odds of a vul­ner­a­ble teenager’s rights be­ing re­spected by her par­ents? So­cial re­pres­sion is all the more rea­son for the le­gal sys­tem to be more sym­pa­thetic, to pre­serve in­di­vid­ual free­doms.

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