Saturday, March 9, 2013

Public Pressure Mounts Over India's Anti-Rape Law Standstill

The Indian government is under fire from all political sides, after the cabinet level anti-rape law discussions stalled when interior and law ministries failed to reach a consensus in key areas.

The federal government requested the Justice Verma Committee to recommend changes in the laws that deal with crimes against women, in the wake of nationwide protests in the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape.

The panel recommended increasing the penalty from 7 years to 20 years, but stopped short of suggesting the death penalty.

According to media reports, the interior ministry and the law ministry are at an impasse over the issue of lowering the age of consent and the use of the word “rape”. It's been reported that the interior ministry wants the age of consent to be lowered from 18 to 16, but no consensus was achieved.

Speaking to media outside parliament, veteran Bollywood actress and lawmaker Jaya Bachchan stressed the accused had committed a criminal offence, regardless of their age.

[Jaya Bachchan, Veteran Actress and Lawmaker]:
"Whether the age is 18 or 16, of course they have loaded, that's what the Justice Verma has recommended. I appreciate that they have accepted his verdict, but the thing is, it is a criminal act and it should be judged as a criminal act and not just a rape."

In Mumbai city the leader of the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, had harsh words of criticism for the impasse between the two ministries.

[Shaina NC, Leader of Bharatiya Janata Party]:
"It's an absolute paradox that you have the home (interior) ministry and the law ministry still debating on whether this bill should be passed or not. I think time is running out, the nation feels the anxiety, we have rape after rape. Unless there is fear of law, we will see these perpetrators of law continue."

New Delhi, with a burgeoning population of 16 million, has the unsavory reputation of being the country's “rape capital”, recording more rapes annually than any other Indian city.

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