After the Delhi-gang rape, and the nationwide outrage that followed, the government has been forced to bring tough laws to punish those who commit rape, molest, assault or stalk a woman.
The bill also proposes to lower the age of consensual sex from 18 years to 16 years, and advocates stern punishment for stalkers and voyeurs. Sustained stalking and offences such as voyeurism, inappropriate touch and remarks have been made non-bailable offences. However, the first offence of voyeurism could be a bailable offence.
But there is a grey area in the anti-rape bill cleared by the government. The new bill provides for no punishment for false cases filed that allege crimes against women. On this the AIDWA general secretary said, “It is very natural that those who file rape or other complains are termed liars by the accused. So, this is a very good step that there will be no punishment against those who are blamed for filling false complaints”.
The bill provides for a minimum prison sentence of 20 years for rape, which can be extended to natural life of the convict in jail. The draft law also provided for the death sentence in the event a rape victim dies or goes in a "persistent vegetative state". Under the existing law, a rapist faces a term of seven to 10 years in jail.
The word 'rape' has been retained. The final draft of the anti-rape bill treats the word rape as gender-specific, instead of making it gender-neutral.
On the clearance of the bill by the cabinet, founder of an NGO 'Apne Aap' Ruchira Gupta said that this is a big step in right direction for the safety and empowerment of the woman.
It is a big step for women’s movement but there is a lot that needs to be done especially around strict liability for rapists where their lack of knowledge of age of victims should not be a defense. Many rapists in brothels escape by pleading that they are unaware that the female is a child. Strict liability will ensure that this does not happen and the terrorized girl is not forced to prove her age in court. We also need urgent police reforms to even implement the law at all,” said Ruchira Gupta in statement.
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