1.Complicated terms of engagement (The Hindu)

2.Bitcoin will crash (The Hindu)

1.Complicated terms of engagement (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of consent of women. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently, the Supreme Court by citing that since sexual assault in marriage is already a crime under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), it is discriminatory and arbitrary to suspend the protection of the rape law for these underage married girls, so the court read down the marital rape exception for married girls between the ages of 15 and 18.
  • The Supreme Court decision makes it clear that sexual consent can only be given by an adult woman of 18 years. In other words, consent to sex in underage marriage cannot be assumed by the husband nor can parents give such consent on behalf of the underage minor. The judgment has been considered prospective in nature.

About the law

  • The Supreme Court had set aside the state’s argument that marriage presumes consent; that compulsory sex in child marriage is protected by customary or personal law; that husbands of child brides must have impunity from the rape law; or that poverty and lack of development means compulsory sex in child marriage must be de-criminalised.
  • POCSO privileges age to define to a child, wherein consent of a child is not a defence to sexual assault. Sexual consent is defined as an adult category. Hence, the argument that marriage presumes consent is not tenable in the law on sexual assault of children.

Child marriages

  • The Child marriage has historically cast a shadow over rape law reform in India. Child marriage is a specific form of customary practice arranged by parents or male community elders. These may be community marriages dictated by religious or caste customs. These are a distinct form of early marriages in which the consent of the patriarch of the family or elder determines the matrimonial fate of the child.
  • The impetus for early marriages, across customary or personal laws, is to prevent young girls from falling in love and experimenting with illicit sex, which is seen to bring dishonour to male defined communities.
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 prohibits the solemnisation of child marriages wherein a child means a person who if male has not yet completed 21 years, and if female not yet 18 years. Further, every child marriage, whether solemnised before or after the Act came into effect, can be made void by either the man or the woman within two years of attaining majority. Karnataka state has passed a law making all child marriages void.
  • POCSO defines a child, irrespective of gender as a person under the age of 18 years, which prevents the “inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity”. It mandates the Central and State governments to take all measures to ensure publicity to the provisions of the Act and obliges government officials to be trained in how to implement the Act.
  • The Indian state acceded in 1992 to the UN General Assembly’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Supreme Court judgment rightly reversed the position that the jurisdiction of sexual impunity preventing husbands from being prosecuted for rape of child wives must lie with customary or personal law through the marital rape law exception.
  • Feminists have critiqued the custodial violence of the family and the state towards women who marry of choice. And they have protested against familial and state violence towards transgressive daughters who often are imprisoned at home or in state institutions, if they consented to sex or marriage, against the wishes of their parents.
  • At the same time, feminists have also insisted on bringing to the law a recognition of sexual assault of children, irrespective of gender. They have also gendered the notion of childhood. Feminists have also elaborated how adolescence is gendered.

Responses

  • There are two broad responses to the age of consent. The first perspective that evokes the political economy of custom and law argues for a lowering of age of consent to 16, however, it creates a conflict with the definition of the child under POCSO, unnecessarily pitting women’s rights against child rights.
  • The second stance recommends a proximity in age clause in the age of consent provision to prevent the criminalisation of young people who are sexually active between 16 to 18 years, thereby suggesting a limited form of legal exceptionalism in the best interest of the child.
  • Both these perspectives are guided by a recognition of the vulnerabilities of young adults to pressure at home to marry early and against their wishes.

Way ahead

  • The question of sexual consent must lie with the individual woman. Parents, elders, political parties, priests or vigilante groups should not be permitted to force women, adult or minor, into marriage or compulsory heterosexuality.
  • The Supreme Court rightly holds that the ‘the girl child must not be deprived of her right of choice’. The right to choose, which is free and unfettered, includes freedom from parental pressure to marry early, freedom from forced marriages, freedom of choice of sexual orientation, and freedom to find self-fulfilment through study, work, profession, vocation or talent.

Question– ‘The question of consent is one that must lie with the individual woman’ critically analyse.

 

2.Bitcoin will crash (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of Bitcoin’s long-term prospects, which may not be too bright. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The price of bitcoin hit yet another lifetime high last week breaking the $6,000 mark for the first time across major exchanges. Many market experts now believe that the price of the digital currency could touch $10,000 very soon. The rise of bitcoin has also been seen as a serious challenge to national fiat currencies issued by central banks as well as physical gold.

About Bitcoin

  • Bitcoin is a digital currency created in 2009. It follows the ideas set out in a white paper by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, whose true identity has yet to be verified. Bitcoin offers the promise of lower transaction fees than traditional online payment mechanisms and is operated by a decentralized authority, unlike government-issued currencies.

Assessment

  • Bitcoin was proved by many of its critic’s wrong over the years, its immediate and long-term prospects may not be too bright. For this with can site least two reasons. firstly, the volatility witnessed in the price of bitcoin against major national currencies like the dollar does not suggest that the private currency’s trading price is reflective of its fundamental value.
  • Bitcoin’s extreme volatility could thus be a sign that many, if not most, bitcoin buyers purchase the currency solely for the purpose of gambling. It might, however, be that many bitcoin investors believe that the currency’s fundamental value as a medium of exchange could increase significantly in the future and are thus accumulating it now. This might justify bitcoin’s current price and volatility, but one will have to wait and watch to see if the thesis turns out to be true.
  • Secondly, even if bitcoin were to hold some fundamental value as money, as it very well might if bitcoin speculators are right in paying its current price, the political risks facing the currency are simply too huge to allow its long-term survival. National fiat currencies like the dollar allow governments, through their central banks, to easily tax their citizens by printing a fresh supply of money whenever they need it.
  • Bitcoin strikes at the root of this centuries-long monopoly power over money held by governments, and the consequences are unlikely to work out in bitcoin’s favour. Bitcoin’s future price might come to reflect its actual fundamental value as money, if it is indeed allowed by governments to survive in the fringes of the monetary system.
  • A free market in money can bring in serious competition that can improve the quality of our money; either by reining in inflation or by making it more predictable.

Question– The rise of bitcoin has also been seen as a serious challenge to national fiat currencies issued by central banks as well as physical gold. Critically analyse.