Court sentenced two men to nine years for rape of minor

Penal Code: The need to amend the consensual sex provision in the penal code has surfaced again with the Sarpang dzongkhag court directing the Office of the Attorney General to move the motion on a specific age of consent.

The directives were reflected in the verdict when the court sentenced two men to nine years in prison on December 25 for the crime of “rape of a minor.”

It states that the OAG plays a pivotal role in subscribing to the constitutional role of the state. “There is no higher office or authority above it while upholding the constitutional spirit of rule of law in advising all those public office of the State. The OAG has ascendency over other entities on matters relating to law.”

The men, aged 19 and 23, were found to have engaged in sexual relationship with their minor girlfriends aged 16 and 14. All of them were students. One of the convicts, Surjaman Rai, 19, was in a relation with his 16-year-old girlfriend since July this year.

The victim in her statement to the court said that their sexual relation was consensual and not rape. But the court couldn’t consider as the law clearly states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of rape of a child above the age of 12 years if the defendant commits any act of sexual intercourse with a child between the ages of 12 and 18.

The other convict, Dhan Man Rai, 23, was also found having sexual relationship with his 14-year-old girlfriend. According to the verdict, they wanted to get married.

However, the statutory law didn’t allow to interpret the case in the manner as claimed by the victims.

The court instead directed the OAG to move a motion for a specific age of consent and remove the exception that was included when the penal code was amended in 2011. “The state will continue to bear the burden of harsh laws until it is amended,” stated the verdict.

This exception of the law, the verdict states, excludes all consensual sex whose age is beyond eighteen even if the parties prove beyond reasonable doubt. “Many of the cases that are prosecuted are often children in conflict with the laws and the present matters brought for prosecution warrants deep introspection by the Parliament in providing specific penal provision on age of consent without exception,” it states.

“Until the legislature enacts specific provision or till the time the higher courts interprets otherwise, this court of justice is left with no choice than to accept the amended provision in spirit and letter.”

The court also asked the OAG to advice all ministries and agencies suffering from legal deficiency to enforce the law for the protection of public rights. A court official expressed the need of proper counselling in schools on the laws and not wait until children come into conflict with law.

“There should be a fair knowledge of the law at the school level. Even teachers are not aware of the laws,” he said.

Yeshey Dema, Gelephu