Sex out of wedlock is taboo in India and arbitrary ideals of ‘honour’, preserved through chastity, are used to restrict an unmarried woman’s sexuality in an effort to ultimately maintain caste and religious purity. In fact the need to protect this honour is so strong that families will dismiss the woman’s sexual agency, instead preferring to pretend that the act of premarital sex was through force.
Given this phenomenon and the age of consent to sex being increased from 16 to 18, it is not unimaginable that several boys aged 16-18 years will be wrongfully charged with rape, a heinous crime, and tried as adults.
There is no question that incarceration rates in India are also heavily class-biased, data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that 90% of juveniles apprehended in 2016 under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Special and Local Laws (SLL) had not completed their matriculation and belonged to families earning less than Rs. 1 lakh per annum.
No relative rise in Juvenile crimes
While introducing the new Juvenile Justice Bill, Maneka Gandhi stated that juvenile crimes are the “fastest growing” crimes in the country. All evidence points otherwise.
While juvenile crime has increased from 35,465 in 2012 to 42,566 in 2014 under the IPC, we need to take into cognizance that total crime has also increased.
The rate of juvenile among the overall crime rate has stayed static at 1.2% from 2012-14. Thus, the very logic which the change in the law is based on is flawed.
We can also observe a trend of decrease in Juvenile crimes in the next few years. Juvenile crime decreased from 38,455 incidents (both under IPC and SLL) in 2014 to 33,433 in 2015 but increased to 35,843 in 2016. On the other hand, total crime rate (IPC + SLL) has steadily increased from 45,71,633 in 2014 to 47,10,676 in 2015 to 48,31,515 incidents in 2016.
The juvenile crime rate is thus, about 0.76% of the overall crime rate, a marked decrease from the static 1.2% from 2012-14.
The rate of juvenile among the overall crime rate has stayed static at 1.2% from 2012-15. Thus, the very logic which the change in the law is based on is flawed.