Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cabinet Clears Anti-Rape Bill

NEW DELHI: Amid the government's keenness to enact a tough law to tackle crimes against women, the Union Cabinet today cleared a bill providing for stringent punishment for rape, acid attack, stalking and voyeurism besides reducing the age of consent for sex to 16 years.

The approval of the Cabinet paves the way for introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 in Parliament before it goes into recess on March 22, which is necessary as it will have to replace an Ordinance which will expire on April four.

The bill, brought against the backdrop of the December 16 Delhi gangrape, provides for minimum jail term of 20 years for rape which may be extended to 'natural life' of the convict in jail or even death if the victim dies or is left in a 'persistent vegetative state'

The bill also provides for lowering the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years, one of the contentious provisions which held up the proposed legislation briefly and had to be referred to a Group of Ministers for consensus.

The Ordinance had maintained the consent age as 18 years.

The bill also uses the term 'rape' which will be gender- specific, in contrast to the gender-neutral 'sexual assault' as proposed in the ordinance. This means only men can be booked for the crime.

Stalking and voyeurism have been defined as criminal offences in the bill. Sustained stalking will be a non- bailable offence.

The bill had divided the Cabinet at its special meeting on Tuesday and was referred to a GoM to sort out differences on various aspects of the proposed law.

The GoM finalised the draft yesterday amidst the government's keenness to expedite the bill that will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 3.

The measure, on the lines of the ordinance, has not touched on the issue of making marital rape a separate offence.

Against the backdrop of parties like the Samajwadi Party having serious reservations on certain provisions of the ordinance claiming they are prone to misuse, the government has convened an all-party meeting next week to discuss the bill cleared by the Cabinet today.


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