You are here: Home News India: Tougher rape laws on hold as ministers debate
India: Tougher rape laws on hold as ministers debate

Mar 12, 2013

India’s Group of Ministers has yet again deferred a new law that gives out harsher punishments for rape.

 

A proposed Bill before Indian lawmakers to make punishment for crimes against women more stringent faces rough weather. The Group of Ministers has now referred the Bill to the all-party meet due to lack of unanimity.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred the Bill to a Group of Ministers (GoM) for further consultations after an hour-long special meeting of the Cabinet, convened to clear the proposed law, failed to arrive at any agreement.

This GoM will be assisted by lawyers to examine the contentious issues, reflected as differing viewpoints put forward by different ministries of the government.

The Group of Ministers will include Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, both of whom are eminent lawyers in their own right. Besides these ministers, the GoM will also include Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath, and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar – the two ministers whose divergent viewpoints are mainly responsible for the impasse.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde will also participate in the GoM.
One of the contentious issues was a provision in the proposed Bill lowering the age of consensual sex to 16 years from the present age of 18. The issue had led to lengthy inter-ministry consultations with the Women and Child Development Ministry fiercely opposing the move. Having sex with a woman under the age of consent is considered statutory rape.

Besides this, there was also disagreement on replacing the word rape with ‘sexual assault’, which is gender neutral. There has been a huge debate in the civil society on not replacing rape by sexual assault – but there is also another view that the way rape is defined makes the proposed law too gender specific.

Defining voyeurism and stalking, which the Bill identifies as criminal offences, is yet another point of disagreement between the Law Ministry and the Ministry for Women and Child Development.

Some ministers in the Cabinet have expressed concern about not enough safeguards against false evidence and testimony. The highlight of the proposed law is the provision for death sentence to an accused if rape (or sexual assault) leads to death of the victim or leaves the victim in a vegetative state. The minimum punishment is 20 years in jail – extendable to imprisonment for the rest of the life of the convict.

Most Read
Most Shared
You May Like
search

blank.gif

blank.gif

blank.gif

Jobs at OneWorld

research-coordinator.png

rolling-internships.png

blank.gif

blank.gif

blank.gif

blank.gif

telangana-sdg.jpg

blank.gif

Global Goals 2030
 
OneWorld South Asia Group of Websites