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Need to amend POCSO Act to allow consensual relationship between adolescents: NCP MP

New Delhi: NCP MP Vandana Chavan on Wednesday urged the government to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to revise the age of consent and prevent the criminalisation of consensual and non-exploitative relationships between older adolescents.

Raising the issue in Rajya Sabha during special mention, she said the enactment of the POCSO Act in 2012 was definitely a “watershed moment” in the history of child rights in India, but it also has its shortcomings.

Section 2(d) of the POCSO Act defines a child as an individual under the age of 18. This has led to the suffering of many young couples between the ages 16 to 18, who are in consensual and non-exploitative relations, Chavan said.

“Because the consent of the child is immaterial, a genuine romantic relation which has mutual consent from both sides can get embroiled in the criminal justice system,” she said.

Several high courts of the country have recognised the normalcy of these relationships and pointed out that the act was meant to protect minors from sexual abuse and not to criminalise consensual romantic relationships among adolescents, she added.

“There have been several incidences of misuse of the POCSO Act, especially by parents who want to punish the children from attempting to exercise autonomy in who they want to marry. Many a time the couple elopes fearing opposition from parents resulting in a situation where families file a case with the police, who then book the boy for rape under POCSO Act,” she added.

“Hence there is an urgent need to reform the law to revise the age of consent and prevent the criminalisation of older adolescents in consensual and non-exploitative acts,” she added.

During the special mention, members raised several other issues.

While Sashmit Patra of the BJD demanded special category status for Odisha as it faces frequent natural disaster, Jawhar Sircar of the TMC drew attention over the decline in the number of farmers to receive the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi.

“According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s response to an RTI query, the 11th installment of the funds has fallen by as much as 67 per cent,” he said.

There is a sharp drop from 11.84 crore farmers, who received the first instalment in February 2019 to just 3.87 crore farmers who received the 11th instalment of Rs 2,000 in June 2022, and asked the agriculture minister to examine and locate the reason.

Brij Lal from the BJP raised the issue of medical education in India and said currently 96,077 seats are available at the undergraduate level, in which 51,712 are at government institutions and the rest are with private universities.

Similarly, 49,790 seats are available for PG students, out of which 33,384 are in government institutions and the rest are in private colleges.

“Last year in the UG examination 16.64 lakh appeared in the exam to compete for 96,077 seats and 2.63 lakh appeared for PG exams,” he said, adding “in PG more than 1.50 lakh students either keep on repeating (to get better stream) or end up with MBBS.”

The situation is severe for the girls with MBBS degrees as they are neither “gainfully employed nor paid respectable remuneration”.

He urged the government to introduce the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPS) and FCPS (fellowship) courses at colleges with all india acceptability.

“This will go a long way especially helping the MBBS girls students and settling down in life by 30 years of age,” he added.

Dola Sen of the TMC raised the issue of jute farmers of Bengal. The government procured raw jute from farmers at an MSP of Rs 4,750 per quintal in 2022-23 but it reaches mills at Rs 7,200 per quintal.

She urged the central government not to dilute the provision of the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act 2010 and control the price fluctuations in the jute market and encourage the jute industry.

Nominated member Ram Sakal urged the government to double the railway line between Chopan to Chunar in Uttar Pradesh. He said this will also provide the tribal-dominated regions of Jharkhand with better connectivity and also help in ferrying coal and other minerals from the region.

S Selvaganapathy of the BJP requested the Shipping Ministry to prevent sea erosion in Puducherry and the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu.

Ajit Kumar Bhuyan asked Geographical Indications (GI) tag for Assam CTC tea like Orthodox Assam tea. The GI tag would ensure the quality of Assam CTC tea and help to attract a better price.

S Phangnon Konyak of the BJP requested the railway’s minister to equip long-distance trains with ambulance facilities. Air ambulance is the only option for far-flung area and has limitations for common people, he said.

Ghanshyam Tiwari, Kirodi Lal Meena, Jugalsinh Lokhandwala, Darshana Singh, K Laxman, GVL Narasimha Rao of BJP, Kanimozhi NVN Somu of DMK, K Vanlalvena of MNF, Ramji of BSP, Mahua Maaji of JMM and Ramnath Thakur of JD (U) also spoke during the special mentioning.

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