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Age of Consent & Anti-Rape Bill

By Abhay Gupta

There’s an old saying that I made up a few minutes ago about carrots and sticks. If you can’t make the
carrots any juicier, line the stick with barbed wire so it hurts more. And that’s presently what the government is in the process of doing with the remodeling of the current laws regarding rape and age of consent. By now, I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the infamous incident where a 23-year old woman was brutally gang-raped and tossed out of a moving bus in New Delhi on the 16th of December, 2012. The public demanded that the government do something in response to such a horrifying tragedy and, well, they’re doing something. They’re sharpening the stick. The carrot isn’t going to taste any different, after all. What, were you expecting the government to start doling out gift baskets and badges of merit for all the rapes you DIDN’T commit today?

What is the government doing about this, though? Have we really questioned whether the government’s actually taking the right steps towards curbing the number of incidents of rape and sexual brutality committed in our country every day? Let’s start with the restructuring of the laws regarding age of consent. As of this week, it’s still 18. There was a lot of commotion regarding the proposal to lower it down to 16 and all I could wonder was – How does that affect anything? Do sex offenders really ask for age proof before sexually violating someone? 

The age of consent is basically the youngest one can be before they can lose their virginity. Anyone who takes the virginity of someone below the age of consent is guilty of committing ‘statutory rape’, regardless of whether consent is given or not, and is entitled to a free trip to prison, all expenses covered.  The idea of changing the age of consent was to effectively curb the sexual exploitation of minors. There is some genuine legitimacy to this issue but it’s a huge waste of time if our primary agenda is to eliminate rape. What kind of statement is the government making when its solution to stopping rapists and sexual fiends is to lock up pedophiles and horny young people? If you have tigers loose in the city, you don’t solve this problem by hunting down stray dogs in the hopes that this will discourage the tigers from eating your children. You find yourself a hunter who knows the difference between a tiger and an aalsi kutta.

And don’t let that be the only thing that should bother you about the government’s Anti-Rape bill. There’s also stalking and voyeurism that’s under debate. First time offenders could face 1-3 years for voyeurism and up to three years for stalking. I’m not opposed to this. There are some really creepy people roaming our city streets and the last thing anyone wants is for any of these creeps to enact out my deepest, darkest fantasies. Umm, I meant theirs. Obviously.

But seriously, anyone could be a voyeur if poor judgment is applied. If you’re attractive enough, you may just have to get used to a flurry of ogling fans checking you out. There are some obvious boundaries one is allowed to have and too much staring is definitely creepy but if you’re going to enforce a law on it, you should damned well know how far a line you want to draw. I’ve known people who get into trouble with cops for driving after having a single glass of beer and that’s just made it clear to me that our government has a tendency to overcorrect an issue to a dangerous extreme when it can’t find an optimum solution.

On that note, have you ever considered what constitutes stalking? No, checking someone’s Facebook profile isn’t real stalking. But, hey, maybe it will be soon. We won’t know for sure until the government makes up its mind on how much stalking is too much stalking and when the persistent pursuit of a love interest crosses over from ‘endearing’ to ‘holy shit, get a restraining order’. Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav, for example, suggests that this bill could ‘kill romance’ since it’s his belief that a man must ‘follow a woman’ till she notices him and reciprocates. Uh-huh. 

Still, what amount of persistence is stalking? Could I send a woman to jail because she called me a hundred odd times over the course of a week? If I’m walking towards a certain destination and a woman’s walking the same way, some distance in front of me, should I overtake her or stop for a smoke break to avoid the possibility of going to jail over some misguided paranoia? Does that, effectively, make me just as paranoid? Thanks, government. We all feel much safer now.

The task at hand is a complicated, difficult one to solve, and the classic approach of introducing more terrifying penalties seems to have done little to deter close to a dozen men from brutally violating a woman to the point where her consequent death was a small mercy. It’s a grave problem that cannot be fixed simply by discouraging a handful of promiscuous teenagers and everyday voyeurs. If you feel, as I do, that our government can do more, don’t let the Anti-Rape bill circulate around such insignificant factors. Don’t let the December atrocity blow up into another sensation that got swept away underneath a rug of hollow solutions and helpless scapegoats. Remember – the next victim could very easily be you or someone you know.


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