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‘Romeo-Juliet law’: Supreme Court seeks Centre’s stand for decriminalising ‘consensual teenage sex’

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Romeo-Juliet law: SC seeks Centre’s response on decriminalising teen s€x


Introduction of Romeo-Juliet law has been mentioned after a grave incident has surfaced in Delhi’s women and child development department, where a deputy director is now facing the specter of arrest due to shocking allegations of r@ping a minor girl. The police descended upon his residence on a Monday morning, initiating an investigation into the troubling case that has sent shockwaves throughout the city.

Although the alleged incident unfolded nearly three years ago, it only recently came to the forefront of public attention. The survivor, who had been grappling with anxiety issues, was admitted to a hospital, and through extensive psychological counseling, she unveiled the haunting abuse she had suffered.

In a narrative that paints a harrowing picture, the survivor recounted how she used to attend a local church alongside her parents, a place where the accused would also frequent with his family. Over time, their families forged a close bond, leading to a level of trust. Following the untimely demise of the survivor’s father in 2020, she was entrusted to the care of the accused’s family with her mother’s consent.

Within the span of her stay with the accused’s family between October 2020 and February 2021, the survivor alleges that she endured an ordeal of s€xual harassment, molestation, and r@pe. The distressing narrative further includes a deeply troubling detail: she claims to have been compelled to terminate her pregnancy when the accused and his wife discovered it. The authorities are currently probing whether the accused’s wife had any involvement in providing abortion pills.

The survivor’s journey to disclose her traumatic experiences was far from immediate. Returning home in 2021, she initially did not divulge her ordeal to her mother. However, in the course of counseling at a hospital, she found the strength to open up about her distressing past.

An official from the Delhi Police confirmed that no arrests have been executed as of yet, but a comprehensive investigation is underway. In response to the survivor’s complaint, an FIR (First Information Report) has been lodged, invoking multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the spokesperson of the Delhi government affirmed that if the accused is proven guilty, stringent actions will be taken in accordance with the law. It is imperative to note that the survivor’s identity remains confidential, as mandated by the directives of the Supreme Court to safeguard the privacy of victims of s€xual assault.

In a separate yet relevant development, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, has been deliberating on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that seeks to decriminalize consensual teenage s€x. This PIL has brought to the forefront discussions around the application of the ‘Romeo-Juliet law’ in cases involving underage yet consensual s€x.

At the heart of the PIL is the call to decriminalize consensual s€x among adolescents. The argument posits that many instances involve a boy over 18 years of age engaging in consensual s€x with a girl below 18, leading to the boy being charged with rape if the girl’s parents file a complaint.

The PIL advocates for a shift in the understanding of consent from a minor who is not yet 18 years old, as per the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The Act currently deems any attempt at sexual activity with a minor under 18 as a criminal offense. Furthermore, under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, s€x with a girl under 16 is classified as rape, even if she consents.

The PIL narrows its focus on situations where a girl falls within the 16-18 age bracket, and the boy is just above 18. In numerous cases, boys have faced arrest if complaints are filed by the girl’s family, leading to social stigma. The plea seeks to decriminalize consensual s€x between girls over 16 and not yet 18, and boys aged between 16 and 20.

Law: Supreme Court seeks Centre's stand for decriminalising ‘consensual teenage sex’

what is Romeo-Juliet law?

The notion of a ‘Romeo-Juliet law,’ operative in various countries, has been introduced in the court’s deliberations. This law, widely adopted since 2007, caters to cases of consensual teenage s€x, wherein one partner is a minor and the other is an adult. It provides protections to the older individual if the age difference between the two is no more than four years. The law’s nomenclature is drawn from William Shakespeare’s renowned tragedy, “Romeo & Juliet,” immortalizing the tale of two teenage lovers.

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