Sexual activity among Indian teens is nothing new. It thrives all the more today.
Even as early as the 1980s, sex among Indian teens was hardly rare. Rather, it was common, only that people (read adults), given their proclivity for living in denial and brushing socially inconvenient subjects under the carpet, went about declaring that pre-marital sex was something that the West indulged in. Indians, no never.
But the truth was something else. Sex was happening among teens and happening merrily, and I know that college campuses were hotbeds of sexual romps.
I still remember a girl from a well-known women’s college in the then Madras describe in graphic detail how students in her hostel devised ingenious ways to fool the watchman and get out of the campus for a night of sex with their boyfriends.
Cut to mid-2000, and I was told to my amazement how girls in a reputed Karnataka university hostel smuggled into their rooms boys in large boxes. The girls had the audacity to ask watchmen to help with the “cargo”.
So, sexual activity among Indian teens is nothing new. It thrives all the more today. And this happens in cities, towns and villages.
Only the methods vary. I suppose a village belle does not have to smuggle a guy inside her home/room; they can do it behind a hay stack.
Therefore, the government’s recent move to reduce the age of sexual consent from 18 to 16 is only to be welcomed. An ordinance has been promulgated, and this has to be ratified by the ministerial Cabinet and approved by Parliament before it becomes a law.
The most important reason for fixing the age of consent at 16 is the early sexual activity seen ever so widely among the youth – living in an age of information.
In this day of Internet and television, nothing, literally nothing remains hidden from boys and girls. Those as young as 13 or 14 know all about sex, and such easily available knowledge tends to heightens temptation. And with hormones already in a tizzy twirl, teenagers are emboldened to experiment with sex.
Also, lowering the age to 16 could help stop parental harassment. A young boy caught having a physical relationship with a girl between 16 and 18 is often beaten and brutalised, even jailed, because she does not have the right to consensual sex. This has been highlighted by the rampant killings of boys and even girls under the pretext of saving a family’s honour.
Finally, a boy or a girl above 16 will be treated as an adult and will be outside the purview of the juvenile act.
We saw during the recent high-profile gang rape incident in New Delhi how one of the accused escaped trial and jail because he had a few months to go before he turned 18. He was sent to a boys’ remand home for education and behavioural correction.
As one leading lawyer in Chennai quipped, he would walk a free man in a matter of months, posing a terrible threat to society. She was bang on, because the boy was suspected of having been the most brutal in the gang of rapists and murderers.
The young Delhi girl died in a Singapore hospital several days after she valiantly fought to be alive.
However, it is imperative that the new act – if it happens – also paves the way for sex education in high school and college. All said and done, sex without social responsibility may well lead to unwanted teen pregnancies and a jump in infection.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]