The Cabinet yesterday cleared the anti-rape bill, aimed to provide stricter punishment for crimes against women. The bill will now be discussed by leaders of all parties on Monday.
The bill, which was cleared by a group of ministers yesterday, proposes to lower the age of consent from 18 years to 16 years. The bill says sustained stalking will be made a non-bailable offence while the first offence of voyeurism could be a bailable offence. The new bill also proposes no punishment for false cases filed that allege crimes against women.
The government has been keen to amend laws with stricter punishment for a wider range of crimes against women since the shocking gang rape of a medical student on a bus in Delhi. She died in December of the horrific injuries. Last month, in a signal of its determination to improve safety for women, the government cleared a package of laws through an ordinance. The ordinance has to be approved by Parliament before its recess from March 22, failing which it would lapse on April 4.
The government has been criticised for the delays in managing consensus among its senior ministers. The cabinet was divided over whether the bill should refer to the gender-neutral term of “sexual assault” or “rape” it has decided on the latter, stating that sodomy will be addressed in a separate bill. Lowering the age of consent was also disputed, the Child and Women’s Welfare Minister Krishna Tirath argued that it would encourage child abuse but others said that lowering the age from 18 to 16 will prevent false accusations of statutory rape in cases where teenagers have consensual sex.
Anti-rape bill at a glance
Definition of rape to include only the woman as the victim and the man as the aggressor
Draft changed to differentiate between rape and other sexual offences to minimise potential for misuse
Stalking and disrobing to be non-bailable offences
Age of consent lowered to 16 years
Voyeurism to be made a bailable offence
Provision for the death penalty if rape victim dies or is left in a persistent vegetative state