India strengthens crimes against women deterrents

Added by on March 21, 2013

Demonstrators gather in the wake of the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a woman; India passed a sweeping bill on crimes against women on March 21 2013.

Demonstrators gather in the wake of the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a woman; India passed a sweeping bill on crimes against women on March 21 2013.

India’s Parliament approved and passed an amendment on Thursday to its criminal laws that toughen laws on men that attack women in acts that include rape, voyeurism, stalking, exploitation, consensual sex along with many other provisions.

The amendments, which are back dated to go into effect on February 3, will become law when India’s President, Pranab Mukherjee, signs the bill later today. The Indian government was promoted to create the amendment after a 23 year old woman in Delhi was fatally gang raped, which sparked a nationwide movement to strengthen laws for crimes against women.

India’s Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, when he was introducing the bill, “We feel that when such serious and heinous crimes start occurring with alarming regularity, the time has come to send a loud and clear deterrent signal to all potential criminals that society will no longer tolerate such aberrant behavior.”

The bill can impose sentences that include fines, imprisonment ranging from 3 years to life, and the death penalty for repeat offenders.

Apart from punishments, the bill broadens the definition of rape and other sex crimes – including acts like rape, voyeurism, stalking, use of criminal force with “intent to outrage her modesty”, and unwanted sexual remarks.

The bill also includes provisions for the prosecution of police or other public servants in positions of power who either do not report cases of rape, or commit rape – the bill clarifies that these acts are crimes with punishment of not less than 10 years up to life imprisonment.

The law also recognizes the changing nature of relationships, especially those online, by including wording that makes it a crime to share photos of intimate acts or other aspects that a woman says she does not want to be distributed to third parties. The bill also includes punishments for stalking a woman online via the internet, by email, or any other form of electronic communication. The bill also clarifies that rape includes sex when a woman has given consent “by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication…or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance.”

The bill also clarifies consent as a “voluntary agreement when the woman, by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate” in sex.

Proponents said they were satisfied with the amendments.

“It is good that India still responds as a democracy when there is pressure from citizens,” said the director of Human Rights Watch in South Asia, Meenakshi Ganguly.

Others were disappointed saying that the bill falls short of many recommendations made by a committee formed after the December gang rape of the 23 year old woman in Delhi.

Some said the bill is a start, yet it needs to be enforced.

“The spectrum of change India requires is much, much broader than amendments to the criminal laws,” said a women’s rights activist and lawyer, Vrinda Grover. “We need to really focus on enforcement and implementation.”