The sex crimes bill parties ignored


Until the Delhi gangrape and the accompanying outrage forced parties to reflect on the measures to deal with crimes against women, the subject had been getting very little attention from the political class.

When Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde introduced the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, in the Lok Sabha on December 4, it turned out to be a non-event. The House was preoccupied with the FDI issue and adjourned immediately after the introduction of the bill, which seeks largely to amend the laws for sex-related crimes. The government did not list it for a subsequent discussion during the session; the Opposition did not press for it.

The draft of the bill took shape with the combined efforts of the ministries of women & child development, law & justice, and home, and the National Commission for Women and the Law Commission of India. It seeks to amend the IPC, which dates back to 1860, the CrPC (1973) and the Evidence Act (1872).

Among the key introductions is the offence of sexual assault, which replaces the present offence of rape and which covers a much wider range of acts. Under the IPC, rape is defined as sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent. Under the proposed amendment, sexual assault would no longer be gender-specific and the acts criminalised (if committed without consent) would be: (a) penetration of a person (various parts of the body are specified) with any part of the offender's body, or with any other object for a sexual purpose; (b) manipulation of a body part of a person so as to cause penetration with any part of the offender's body; (c) oral sex involving either sex.

The bill also introduces acid attacks as an offence. Burning or maiming a person by throwing acid entails imprisonment for a minimum 10 years, which may extend to life, and a fine of Rs 10 lakh. An attempt to throw acid entails a minimum five and a maximum seven years of imprisonment.

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