Rethinking Age of Consent: Navigating the Complex Landscape of Adolescent Relationships

Rethinking Age of Consent: Navigating the Complex Landscape of Adolescent Relationships 


“Age is just a number” is a common phrase used to suggest that age is not a barrier to attaining success or happiness. However, it becomes a curse of the people who got engaged with their partner prior 18 year of age. A female partner must attain the legal age to get into a sexual relationship. There are many instances where a man is booked into POCSO for being in a sexual relationship with his partner who hasn’t reached the maturity age for physical intimacy and it would be  considered as a rape under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and it would be punishable offence under Section 375 of the IPC also.

Before delving further, it’s crucial to understand what POCSO is — Protection of Children from Sexual Offences. The Constitution of India empowers the state in Article 15(3) to make special provisions for children. After the Nirbhaya Rape Case in 2013, the Supreme Court made changes to sexual crime laws to protect the modesty of women and children. The POCSO Act was introduced to protect children from sexual offences, prosecuting such cases in special courts under Section 28, with a special prosecutor appointed under Section 32. If a person is convicted under Section 3 of the POCSO Act, the offender faces imprisonment for not less than 7 years which is extendable to life imprisonment in certain cases. POCSO is designed as a gender-neutral act, recognizing that boys can also be victims of sexual violence. 


In general terms, consent means “agreeing to something”. Later, it refers in a sexual context. For indulging in sexual intercourse, both partners must give their consent; otherwise, it is considered as a rape. It is assumed that children below the age of 14 are not mature enough to understand such matters, making it easy to manipulate and risky to engage in such activities. Hence, consent should not matter for them.

Consensual Romantic Relationships

Adolescents, aged 14 to 18, are not legally allowed to engage in sexual activity with their partners, as stated in the POCSO Act. Although they may be mature enough for such activities, a report submitted by the Law Commission of India suggests rethinking the age criteria for consent. Many cases in which girls between 16 to 18 years of age engaging in consensual sexual relationships, leading to POCSO cases filed by parents against boys, potentially ruin their lives.

A 2012 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health classified teenagers engaging in sexual activity before 15 year of age is classified as “early,” between 15 to 19 as “normative,” and after 19 as “late.” This study implies that attraction and physical intimacy are normal between these age groups. In most developed countries, the age of consent is already below 15.

Benefits of a Lower Age of Consent

  • Sexual crimes, especially those committed by minors, would decrease.
  • Research indicates that teenagers having early sex develop better social relationships.
  • Individuals can more easily manage their romantic relationships in the future.

In today’s contemporary society, sex remains a stigma for many parents, and engaging in it before marriage destabilizes their mindset. They are not yet developed to accept these ideas.

Views of Courts and Judges

Several instances showcase the court’s acknowledgment of the need to decrease the age of consent for fornication. The Karnataka High Court referred to the 22nd Law Commission report, which got a green signal for lowering the consent age. In the case of “State vs Rahul,” the Delhi High Court granted bail to a 19-year-old boy, stating that “Adolescent love must be scrutinized in the backdrop of real-life situations,” considering their unawareness of laws and age of consent.

The Chief Justice has urged the Parliament to “examine the age of consent issue” as it often neglects the actual cases of minors being victims of sexual violence. Ritu Raj Awasthi, the Chairman of the Law Commission of India, has finalized a report recommending the age of consent be lowered from 18 to 16. This step is seen as beneficial for society, saving court time from dealing with teenage love relationships.


It has been found that teenagers engaging in relationships are well aware of using contraceptives during sex, society should acknowledge these relationships. In Muslim personal law, the age of marriage is not mentioned, but puberty is considered as a valid ground for marriage. It is assumed that after puberty, girls are knowledgeable about such relationships. POCSO is made to protect children from paedophiles not from love relationships.

Author:- ADARSH TRIPATHI, Student of Manikchand Pahade Law College

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *