Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 26 July 2023
- Strategic-economic blocs just rein in
- Consensual Sex and Age: Recent High Court Decisions
Strategic-economic blocs just rein in
- India cancelled the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade agreement with the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, in November 2019.
- Fast forward to 2023, and China has been replaced by the United States, and many of the same countries, including India, are now members of the United States-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).
GS Paper-2: Bilateral, Regional, and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Analyse the implications of India’s potential involvement in the U.S.-driven Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) on its economic policies and future prospects in light of India’s previous pullout from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). (250 Words)
The deep sea and the devil
- The development of a strategic partnership with the United States is India’s top foreign policy aim, according to The Devil and the Deep Sea.
- India is now in a challenging situation as a result of the ongoing deterioration in its relations with China.
- While having a strategic alliance with the United States is important, India must be careful to avoid becoming economically reliant on it.
- Economic Challenges with China and the U.S.: India is worried about becoming economically dependent on China because of the inexpensive Chinese goods that are flooding the Indian market and may have a detrimental effect on the manufacturing sector.
- In the meantime, India has substantial difficulties due to the U.S.-related economic problems, particularly in the areas of agriculture, intellectual property, labour, environmental standards, and the digital economy.
- The IPEF Proposal and Traditional Trade Deals: As trade agreements advance, problems including intellectual property, services, investment, domestic regulation, digital, and labour and environmental norms are beginning to take centre stage. Instead, tariffs are no longer the primary concern.
- The U.S.’s IPEF proposal, which fully eliminates the tariff component of traditional trade accords and focuses on these other areas, is an illustration of this trend.
- Traditional trade agreements in the US, however, are likely to encounter legislative obstacles.
- In response, the United States has promoted tariff-free trade agreements as a novel kind of win-win economic cooperation to counteract opposition to free trade agreements from many nations, including India.
- The IPEF’s unclear jargon and Economic Impact: o The IPEF plan uses ‘new age’ jargon that results in unclear wording that might be challenging to understand.
- The plans’ economic consequences may not be obvious to many people, but it is obvious to the American strategists who came up with them.
- According to early expert evaluations, the IPEF would result in a total control over the economies of the participating nations, giving the U.S. a decisive advantage.
- Creating an Economic-Strategic Block:The IPEF aims to create an economic and strategic bloc that revolves around the US but excludes China. The plan intends to establish a cohesive economic framework that would provide domestic policies supporting a nation’s own industrialisation very little room. One of the many components of the IPEF concept that contribute to achieving systemic integration is tight supply chain integration.
The Potentially Hazardous Language in the IPEF Trade Agreement:
- Developing country trade negotiators have honed their skills to spot issues in traditional free trade agreements, but they find it challenging to understand and respond to the sophistry in the IPEF’s language.
- The IPEF is scheduled to be concluded by November 2023, despite real engagements only beginning late last year.
- The full consequences of this phrase will only become apparent in the long run as a result of the hurry to adopt the trade agreement using what appears to be innocent language that will ensnare nations in long-term economic commitments with limited room for policy-making.
The IPEF is supported by four pillars:
- supply chains, commerce, a clean economy, and a fair economy.
- India has joined the other three pillars out of fear of falling into a trap, but it has not yet joined trade, despite strong pressure to do so.
- Being a part of the trade pillar is the worst, but the other pillars also help to create tough, innovative, non-tariff economic designs and institutions.
The Implications of IPEF:
- Giving up the ability to regulate Big Tech could have unintended repercussions;
- The IPEF could have considerable effects on agriculture, notably with relation to genetically modified seeds and foods.
- India’s capacity to build a thriving domestic ecosystem in developing fields like the digital economy and green products may be hampered by the IPEF, which might also damage India’s ability to maintain a competitive advantage in manufacturing owing to unfair labour and environmental regulations.
- The IPEF presents a strategic conundrum for India. On the one hand, the programme might contribute to improving India’s relations with the US. However, it can also be detrimental to India’s economy.
- Before making a choice, the Indian government must carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of the IPEF.
Consensual Sex and Age: Recent High Court Decisions
- Recent rulings by many Indian High Courts have sparked heated discussions over the legal ramifications of consensual sex with kids under the 2012 Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
- At least three High Courts have dismissed FIRs in the past month or cleared defendants based on allegations of consenting sex with young victims.These decisions have highlighted the need of protecting vulnerable children from sexual exploitation, the age of consent, and the function of POCSO.
GS Paper 2: Government Policies and Intervention
Consider the difficulties and issues that the judicial system’s handling of cases involving children having consensual sex has brought up. Incorporate the “best interest of the child” proviso, lower the age of consent, and address the discrepancies between High Court interpretations as a few potential alternatives to be discussed. (250 Words)
What does the 2012 POCSO Act entail?
- The POCSO Act, passed in 2012, is an Indian legislative framework designed to safeguard children from sexual offences.
- The Act identifies various forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, sexual harassment, and pornography involving children. It defines a child as any person under the age of eighteen, with a focus on protecting their best interests and welfare at every stage of the process.
- Sexual assault is sometimes deemed to be “aggravated,” such as when the victim has a mental illness or when the abuser is a member of the victim’s family, a police officer, a teacher, or a doctor.
- The Act was amended in August 2019 to impose harsher penalties, including the death penalty, for sexual offences committed against children.
Context and a Summary of Recent Decisions
- In some cases, the courts did not take into account the age difference between the accused and the victim, or the mandatory legal presumption in favour of the prosecutions.
- The Delhi High Court, Bombay High Court, Madras High Court, and Madhya Pradesh High Court have been involved in recent cases where the accused were released or acquitted on the grounds of consensual sex with underage victims.Concerns have been expressed concerning establishing a firm limit for the age of consent as well as the goal of POCSO in protecting children due to the judiciary’s view on cases involving consenting sex.
Specifying Consent and Child Age
- Acts of penetrative sexual assault on children are crimes under POCSO, which defines a “child” as anybody under the age of 18.Given their fragility, this definition aims to safeguard children from sexual abuse regardless of their permission. Recent rulings, however, have not taken into account the legal presumption in favour of the prosecutions or the age of consent.
- The courts have not thought about lowering the legal age of consent from 18 to 16 as some publications have suggested.
Cons of the POCSO Act:
- Under the POCSO Act, 2012, and under a number of IPC provisions, anyone under the age of 18 who engages in penetrating sexual contact with a child may be “imprisoned for a term which is not less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
- The POCSO Act considers the girl a “child” even though she is 16 years old; as a result, her permission is irrelevant, and any sexual activity is viewed as rape, subjecting it to harsh penalty.
- In a number of cases over the past few years, courts have dismissed rape and kidnapping cases because they believed the law was being abused to benefit one party or the other.
- Additionally, because the act does not recognise consenting teen sex, the boy in this situation is frequently accused of rape.Either social reality is ignored by the law that criminalises adolescent sexuality, or it makes a pretence of doing so. For instance, 39% of women had their first sexual experience before reaching 18 according to the NFHS-5.The same poll also found that 45% of unmarried girls in the 15–19 age range used contraception, which is more proof of sexual activity among adolescent girls who are not married.
Misuse of Act
A 2019 report by Partners for Law in Development titled “Why Girls Run Away to Marry – Adolescent Realities and Socio-Legal Responses in India” argued in favour of lowering the age of consent to a point lower than the age of marriage. The intention was to decriminalise consensual sex among older teenagers and shield them from possible legal abuse by parents trying to influence their children’s choice of marriage partner.
The report emphasised situations in which young couples elope because their families forbid them. The boy is then prosecuted with rape under the POCSO Act and abduction with the intent to marry under the IPC or the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, as a result of families filing police reports.
Taking Action to Close the Gap and Ensure Child Protection
- The severe minimum prison terms outlined in POCSO may have an impact on courts’ unwillingness to find defendants guilty in consenting sex instances.
- The Central government can be helped in making defensible decisions on lowering the age of consent by the Bureau of Police Research and Development’s research of consensual sex cases across states. To assure protection, nonetheless, the qualification of the “best interest of the child” must be included.
- The government must act proactively to resolve the matter because the courts and rights advocates have called for a modification to the age of consent requirements.
- To increase their knowledge, it is also necessary to teach them about the strict rules of the POCSO Act and the IPC.
- The Principal Secretary of the Education Department should establish a committee to create adequate instructional materials on sexual offences law and its effects on adolescents in response to the Karnataka High Court Bench’s instruction.
- Law reform is essential to revise the definition of the age of consent and stop older teenagers who engage in consensual and non-exploitative behaviours from being unjustly criminalised.
- A parliamentary committee is currently looking at the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which seeks to raise the minimum age of marriage for women to 21 years, while some campaigners call for changing the POCSO Act.
- However, advocates for human rights express concern that, rather than assisting their community, raising the marriage age would continue to put pressure on weaker women from their families and society.
- The POCSO Act’s provisions that are prone to abuse should be thoroughly examined by the government, and it should think about changing them while giving top priority to the rights to life, survival, and the best interests of all children.
While Parliament has the authority to lower the consent age, the Supreme Court needs to act quickly to resolve any discrepancies between the legislation as written and various High Court interpretations. In the Vijayalakshmi v. State (2021) judgement, the Madras High Court deemed it essential to create a distinction between the kinds of actions that should and shouldn’t be subject to this onerous rule.so that the proper age of consent can be determined in the end.