Recently, there was a big discussion in India about a very interesting question: from which age on should it be legal to have sex? There were attempts to lower the ‘age of consent’, as it is called, to the age of 16, as it is in many countries worldwide. In the end however, India’s conservative groups gained a victory when the government decided that it would still only be legal to have sex for people 18 and older. Having had vivid discussions on social networks, I would like to write to you about this question in my diary, too.
The biggest controversy about this law is that India’s law still forbids women to marry before they are 18 and men to marry before they are 21. Would those new laws thus endorse sex before marriage, something that religion, tradition and culture strictly sees as a taboo?
Whoever has been in touch with me and my diary entries can probably guess what I would vote for if anybody asked me – the younger age of consent, 16 years. Why? Because we are living in modern times, because I don’t believe in traditions like arranged marriages and most of all because it is anyway already happening all over India. Yes, it is happening. Nobody wants to admit it because this society still believes that it is wrong but young, unmarried people have sex – and often they marry quite late, having made a lot of sexual experiences before their marriage.
The average Indian person will tell you that it is wrong to have sex before marriage and the reason is that they think sex is something dirty. Religion has taught them shame about their sexuality, even if they are married. Before being married however it is thought to be a sin. So even if a person himself has had sex while he was single, for example during his wild college days, when he was going for parties with friends, living far away from his parents and enjoying full freedom for the first time in his life, even then he might tell you that it is a sin. He won’t admit that he did it himself and he might even feel guilty about it. The last person to whom he would talk about his pre-marital sex life would be his wife. If you ask the grooms and brides, every Indian is a virgin at his or her wedding!
And this although we have a culture of arranged marriages! Or maybe especially because of this concept – after all it would reduce your market value if someone knew you had sex although you are not married! Who would give his daughter to a womanizer and who would like to marry his son to a loose woman? Arranged marriages are theaters of hypocrisy!
In my opinion however sex has nothing to do with marriage and should not morally be related to it either! There are lots of cases in this country where people don’t find the right match for getting their marriage fixed! It can be their skin colour, their money situation, their caste or any other reason why the parents just don’t seem to find the right girl or boy for their child. Does this mean these people are not allowed to ever have sex in their lives because they did not get married?
Another thought: what about those people who just don’t want to get married? Who don’t want to have the responsibilities that come with marriage or who only want to marry someone whom they love, not like the horse-trading that arranged marriages are? India is a free country. You don’t reduce the age of consent to 16 only because marrying is still only allowed at 18 and this seems immoral to you. So you will apply this morality on later in life, too, and this means nobody can have sex if they are not married. Then you should make this a law that you are only allowed to have sex if you are married. You cannot, because India is a free and secular country! So don’t apply these morals for young adults either!
Especially Indian parents try to teach such morals to their children, believing that this is the right way, regardless whether they themselves followed their own parents’ rules and morals or not.
I personally refuse to accept any ideology that says you can only have sex if you get married and that is why I will of course never project this on my own children either. I will teach my children freedom and respect. I will educate them about the consequences of sleeping with someone and the precautions and responsibility that need to be taken but it will be up to them to make the decision with whom to sleep or whom to marry.
A parent's heart will always try to do the best for his or her child. It is of course a very individual idea what is 'the best'. I am sure however that I would like my children to have a more natural attitude towards sex, a more educated view on everything that comes with it and then the responsibility and self-confidence to actually decide on their own.