brand logo
NCPA slams statutory rape ‘relaxation’ draft Bill

NCPA slams statutory rape ‘relaxation’ draft Bill

19 Mar 2024 | BY Aavin Abeydeera

  • Opposes relaxation of statutory rape laws
  • Warns it may exacerbate teen/youth pregnancies
  • Chair notes that minors ‘cannot give consent to sex in reasonable, ethically sound sense’   

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), which raised grave concerns regarding the proposed amendments to the Penal Code governing aspects of statutory rape, informed that it intends to question the same in Parliament this week including the Justice Ministry’s motives in seeking to introduce such changes.  

In the Justice Ministry’s latest draft Bill, released on 13 March, proposing amendments to Sections 363 and 364 of the Penal Code; the proposed provisions would allow for adult males below 22 years of age who are convicted of statutory rape to be given more lenient sentences (including suspended sentences in lieu of the mandatory minimum sentence or a lesser mandatory minimum sentence), provided that the victimised minor is between 14 to 16 years of age and the victim had consented to sexual penetration.

In a statement made to The Daily Morning yesterday (18), the NCPA Chairperson Udayakumara Amarasinghe noted that the new draft Bill, if passed, would portend extremely negative consequences for the teenage youth of the country. Citing the fact that there are more than 100 reported cases of child and teenage pregnancies per a month even under the already existing law, Amarasinghe stated that the relaxation of such laws would only increase this number. He opined that the draft Bill was not a step forward in the right direction for the protection of minors in the country, stating that it eroded the protection given to minors who could not ‘give consent to sexual activity in a reasonable, ethically sound sense’. He added that as per the mandate vested in the NCPA, according to the NCPA Act of 1998, the Bill would be questioned by a party representing the NCPA in the Parliament, under the Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee regarding Children, on 20 March. He further stated that legal professionals acting in accord with the NCPA are preparing to question the motives behind the draft Bill from the Ministry of Justice.

Mirroring the NCPA’s views, civil society groups had also come together in opposition to this Bill, presenting a petition outlining the legal argument against passing the draft Bill. Citing international Conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the petition stated that the draft Bill flew in the face of the commitment to protect children’s and females’ rights in the island, arguing that it would be females and children who would suffer the most from the increased leniency regarding the statutory rape of female minors. Stating that the legal age of consent is still 16 years, the petition pointed out that the new provisions, if passed, would, in practice, contradict the laws regarding statutory rape in the island. Many academics, think-tanks, and advocacy groups had signed off on the petition.

The Bill is expected to be read in the Parliament on 20 March. 

More News..