St. Joseph’s College along with the Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity hosted a Symposium on Democracy and the Current Situation in India. Ondede in partnership with Janadhare organized a panel on “The Age of Consent” as part of this symposium.

The objective of the panel was to raise awareness about the convergence of the rights of women, children and sexual minorities on the issue of the age of consent.  The panel was composed of student speakers as well as eminent personalities such as Ms. Kavita Ratha, Ms. Anita Cheria and Mr. Vasudhendra Shroff, with each panelist bringing their own unique experience and perspective to the discussion. The panel was moderated by Dr. Akkai Padmashali, co-founder of Ondede.

The student panelists deliberated on the definition of consent and came to the conclusion that just saying yes is not enough. What is necessary is an informed consent – an informed yes, whereby all factors influencing a decision are considered, the decision is made with enough knowledge of the consequences of taking the decision,  and the decision is taken from a wide range of available options.

Ms. Kavita Ratha spoke specifically about the restriction of age as a standard of measure. She challenged the accuracy of the use of age, in legal language as a measure of the ability of a person. Ms. Anita Cheriya further vexed this question by asking “if there is no age for dissent, how can one decide an age for consent?” Mr.Shroff wove the arguments together and said that the age of consent should take into account an individual’s physical and mental ability to give consent.

The panel ended with the conclusion that responses to issues around the age of consent have to be tailored according to the children or adults involved and that the law must be applied with wisdom.