The Justice Ministry has withdrawn its draft bill to amend the Penal Code’s Sections 363 and 364, which deal with statutory rape, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said.

“We informed the Supreme Court on Thursday when the matter came up that we are not proceeding with this,” the minister told the Sunday Times.

He has convened a meeting next week with stakeholders, especially those interested in the subject, including leading women’s rights activists and organisations, to discuss related matters.

The draft bill, gazetted on February 9, envisages changes to the Penal Code’s Chapter 19 dealing with statutory rape.

As it stands, the law states that sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 16, with or without her consent, amounts to rape.

The draft amendment says that where a girl child is over 14 but under the age of 16, a man is below 22 years old, and sexual penetration has occurred with the consent of the victim, the court can impose a sentence of less than 10 years or suspend the term of imprisonment.

Among other matters, child and women’s rights activists said they believed it was wrong to lower the age of capacity to consent to sex from 16 to 14 years.

Minister Rajapakshe said the amendment was drafted “some time ago” by the Attorney General’s Department, some Supreme Court judges and senior lawyers and forwarded to him.

The intention had been to grant some discretion to judges in cases, especially where there has been a romantic relationship.

“Now it appears there are so many aspects to be considered, and when it came up in the Supreme Court on the last day, we informed the judges we are not proceeding with this,” the minister said.


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