Close to 14% of those arrested in 2015 under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code were minors, a report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said. Police in different states and Union Territories arrested 1,491 people under Section 377, including 207 minors and 16 women, in 2015. In 2014, for the first time, the NCRB began to record Section 377 cases from across India, and the figures revealed that around 1,148 cases were lodged that year. In 2015, there were 1,347 cases registered under the offence — a 17.3% increase — including 154 that involved juvenile accused.
Though the figures do not give a break-up of the gender of the victims, it mentions that in 814 cases, the crimes were committed against children. The remaining crimes were committed against adults, but the report does not specify whether the acts were consensual.
A look at the state-wise figures reveals that Uttar Pradesh at 239 reported the highest number of cases under the section.
Delhi was next with 174 cases, closely followed by Maharashtra and Kerala with 159 each.
Of the 207 children who were arrested last year, around 11 were aged under 12, 100 were aged between 12 and 16 and 96 between 16 and 18.
Section 377 holds: "Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."
While the offence is punishable with life imprisonment, minors come under the special juvenile law which says that if convicted, they can be put in a shelter home for three years. The recent amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act, though, allows children aged between 16 and 18 years in conflict with law to be tried as adults in cases of heinous offences.
A curative petition seeking the decriminalization of Section 377 for consenting adults is pending before the Supreme Court. A lawyer who is part of the case stressed that the decriminalization plea does not apply in cases where the victims are children or non-consensual offences.
"The case in the Supreme Court specifically seeks a reading down of the provision so that in cases where both the parties are consenting adults, Section 377 is not used as a tool to harass, torture or criminalize them," said the lawyer, adding, "The government has also made a strong law, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which covers all cases of sexual abuse of children."