New Delhi: The Home Ministry has moved a note proposing tough new rape laws for the approval of the Cabinet, which is expected to take it up on Thursday. It has inputs from a parliamentary committee which had studied the new rape laws that the government cleared as an Ordinance last month. Once the Cabinet clears these proposals, they will be put before Parliament.
- There are some amendments that the Home Ministry note proposes, among them that the age of consent has been lowered from 18 to 16 years. Under the existing laws, sexual intercourse under the age of consent is considered statutory rape. (Watch)
- The ministry has reintroduced the word “rape” instead of sexual assault, which the Verma Commission, set up to draft new laws on crime against women, had recommended using as one with much wider definition.
- The government’s decision to reject marital rape as a criminal offense has been accepted. The Verma Commission had suggested that marital rape be included as a criminal offence, but the government argued that doing so would weaken traditional family values in India, and that marriage presumes consent. Women activists have fiercely opposed the government’s stand.
- The ministry has also rejected the Verma Commission’s suggestion that those in the armed forces accused of rape be brought under the ambit of criminal law; the government says this needs wider consultations.
- It has endorsed the government’s decision to introduce the death penalty for the most extreme rape cases. The Verma Commission had suggested that life imprisonment be used for cases where women die as a result of sexual assault.
- The Home Ministry adds to the present law the recommendation that hospitals and nursing homes, whether private or public, will have to provide treatment to victims of rape and failure to do so will be punishable.
- The government had promulgated the new ordinance on February 3. President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent, and the provisions became the law pending approval from Parliament. The government had defended promulgating the ordinance saying there was a strong case to amend the law to check crime against women.
- The changed laws were based largely on the recommendations of the three-member Verma commission, headed by Justice JS Verma, which was set up after public outrage over the brutal gang-rape of a medical student in a moving bus in Delhi in December last.
- The provisions of the Ordinance were moved to a standing committee of Parliament made up of members of all parties to recommend changes if any. The Home Minister also held consultations with the Prime Minister before the Cabinet note was drafted.
- Once the Cabinet clears the new proposals, the ordinance will be repealed and a new criminal law amendment bill 2013 will be introduced. But any person booked under this present ordinance will be continued to be prosecuted under its provisions.
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