Women's groups slam ordinance

Rape laws

Opposing the "subversion of due law-making process" and non-inclusion of the "paradigm-changing" recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee in the ordinance on criminal law amendments related to sexual violence, women's rights organisation and civil society groups have urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to sign it.

The ordinance was cleared by the Cabinet on Friday and will include provisions for life sentence for the natural life of the perpetrator for rape/gangrape with grievous hurt, 20 years for rape and death penalty if such a crime causes death of the victim. The definition of rape too has been amended to include sexual assault.

"The very principle is problematic because the ordinance bypasses all democratic processes. If the reason for bringing an ordinance is to implement the recommendations of the Justice Verma committee then it is inexplicable that some of the pathbreaking recommendations of the committee that went beyond staid expressions like honour and modesty like marital rape have not been included. And where did the concept of gender neutrality come from?" said National Advisory Council member Farah Naqvi.

She, however, clarified that her stand is as a women's rights activist and she does not intend to take the matter to the NAC at any stage.

The plea to the President has been endorsed by a host of organisations that include Action Aid, Citizens' Collective, Jagori, Centre for Advocacy and Research, Lawyer's Collective and individuals like Vrinda Grover, Javed Anand, Mohan Rao, Harsh Mander and Uma Chakravarti.

It expresses "alarm" at the need to pass an ordinance just 20 days before the next Parliament session given that no matter how soon it is passed, the new law cannot be applied retrospectively to the Delhi gangrape case which was the trigger for all this.

"An ordinance like this, implemented by stealth, only serves to weaken out democracy," said human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover.

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