Strong anti-rape law for India as President Pranab clears the Bill #Vaw #Womenrights


 NEW DELHI, APRIL 3, 2013 | PTI

An anti-rape protester

An anti-rape protester
President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the anti-rape bill which provides for life term and even death sentence for rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism.Mukherjee accorded his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013 on Tuesday, brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gangrape , and it will now be called the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, an official release said on Wednesday.The law, passed by Lok Sabha (lower House of Indian Parliament) on March 19 and by Rajya Sabha (upper House of Indian Parliament) on March 21, has replaced an Ordinance promulgated on February 3.It amends various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against crimes like rapes, the new law states that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict’s natural life and with a fine.

It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes.

The law, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail.

It also defines acid attack as a crime besides granting a victim the right to self-defence. It also has provisions for imposing a minimum 10-year jail term for perpetrators of such acts.

The law has fixed age for consensual sex at 18 years.

New sections to prevent stalking and voyeurism were introduced following a strong demand from women’s organisations.

The amendments seek to define and prescribe punishment for the offences of stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment.

The law also seeks to widen the definition of rape, broaden the ambit of aggravated rape and enhance the punishment for such crimes.

It also provides that all hospitals shall immediately provide first aid and/or medical treatment free of cost to the victims of acid attack or rape, and failure to do so will attract punishment.

It has provisions for a minimum imprisonment of seven years which may extend to imprisonment for natural life, and a fine for rape convict if he is found to be a police officer, a public servant, armed forces personnel or management or hospital staff.

The law also seeks to amend the Indian Evidence Act to allow a rape victim, if she is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, to record her statement before a judicial magistrate with the assistance of an interpreter or a special educator. It also has provisions to video-graph the proceedings.

Read more at:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/pranab-mukherjee-assent-anti-rape-bill-sexual-harassment/1/260483.html

 

#India – Crimes of exclusion in the new Law #LGBT


Siddharth Narrain : Fri Mar 29 2013, IE

It is anger on the streets that brought the neglected issue of sexual violence back to the forefront, energised a government-appointed committee to put together clear and well reasoned recommendations on law reform and forced the government to table the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013. It is public pressure and years of struggle by the women’s movement that is reflected in the more progressive parts of the bill, passed recently by both Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately, despite unanimity across large sections of society that the definition of rape cannot be restricted to an outdated understanding of rape as perpetrated by men on women, the version of the criminal law bill that was finally passed by Parliament retains this language. In this form, the law is a betrayal of the rights of millions of transgender persons, intersex persons and sexual minorities not born as women.

The current bill is contrary to the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee report, the most comprehensive document on rape law reform in recent times. The Justice Verma Committee had heard a number of women’s rights and LGBT rights activists before framing their nuanced recommendation that the law on sexual assault and rape be gender inclusive as far as the victim/survivor is concerned and gender specific as far as the perpetrator is concerned, except for specific offences like custodial rape, where traditional gendered power dynamics could be overturned. Based on this understanding, the committee suggested that the term “person” be used for the victim/survivor of rape and sexual assault, replacing the term “woman”, and the term “man” be retained for the perpetrator of sexual assault except in a few specified offences.

This simple change in language would have brought under the purview of the law the numerous cases of transgender persons and men who are raped and sexually assaulted by men. This move would have recognised decades of struggle by the transgender community in documenting these abuses, including the pioneering 2003 report of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Karnataka, on human rights violations against the transgender community. The report documented horrific and widespread instances of sexual violence against the transgender community in Bangalore. It observed that the brutal stories of abuse and sexual violence documented in it were really narratives of cruelty, causing trauma to the entire community and negating the constitutional claim of equal citizenship and protection for all.

It is the claim to equality that the Justice Verma Committee relied on when it stated that all sexual identities, including transgender communities, are entitled to be totally protected. The committee observed that the Constitution enables the change of beliefs and greater understanding, and is an instrument to secure the rights of sexually despised minorities. This followed from the committee’s understanding that the problem of sexual violence is not just one of penology, but is related to the constitutional guarantee of the right to equality. It is this same claim of equality that the Delhi High Court recognised in 2009 when it decriminalised homosexuality. Keeping in mind the violence faced by LGBT persons by both the police and non-state actors, the court read the right to non-discrimination in Article 15 of the Constitution widely, holding that the purpose underlying the fundamental right against sex discrimination is to prevent behaviour that treats people differently for not being in conformity with the generalisations concerning “normal” and “natural” gender roles.

It is deeply disturbing, then, that the government, ignoring the Justice Verma Committee recommendations on this point, has deemed it fit to retain the gender specificity of the victim/survivor, thus excluding the lived experience of violence of all those who are not born women. The pioneering feminist Susan Brownmiller, in her groundbreaking work on sexual violence, Against Our Will, written in the early 1980s recognised that sexual assault could hardly be restricted to forced genital copulation, nor was it an exclusively male-on-female offence. More than 30 years later, we must ask this question of our lawmakers and those reluctant to equate the sexual violence experienced by women with that experienced by transgender persons, men and sexual minorities not born women: Who is to say that the sexual humiliation suffered by transgender persons and men, and by those intersex persons and sexual minorities not born women, is a lesser violation of the personal, inner space, a lesser injury to mind, spirit and sense of self?

 

The writer is a lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore

#India- Facts and Myths – Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2013 #Vaw #Justice #mustshare


FACTS AND MYTHS

THE CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2013,

PROPOSED BY THE GOVERNMENT

March 16, 2013

 

FACTS AND MYTHS

THE CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2013,

PROPOSED BY THE GOVERNMENT

March 16, 2013

 

The Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report was a landmark statement, applauded by all citizens, welcomed by all Political Parties. JVC was significant because it showed a mirror to the Constitution of India, and reflected its wise and just guarantees of women’s equality. Today the women and youth of India are looking with hope and expectation towards Parliament, and towards all Political Parties. We urge all Members of Parliament to pass a law upholding the spirit and letter of the Justice Verma Committee; to pass a law that makes a step forward in our collective struggle to end sexual violence in India.

 

 

Myth 1: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 is against men.

 

Fact: The new anti-sexual violence Bill is NOT against men. For our fathers, brothers, husbands, partners, neighbours and colleagues are men too. Are these Men in our lives not committed to seeking an end to the constant threat of sexual violence lurking around every corner? Yes, men must, and men do support this Bill. For this bill is against criminals. It is against the scourge of sexual violence, and seeks to prevent and protect our society from heinous sexual crimes like rape, molestation, disrobing and parading women or stalking.

 

We know that men too can be vulnerable to sexual attacks by criminal men. And we welcome the Bill’s recognition that both men and women can be victims of acid attack and provides protection to all ‘persons’ for these offences. But we further ask you, our Parliamentarians, to recognize that men must also be protected against the crime of rape and custodial rape committed by other men, and to change the definition of victim in section 375 and section 376 (2) to ‘person’ and not restrict victimhood in these instances to women alone. Men and women are and must remain partners in this battle against sexual violence. And all ‘persons’ deserve protection of the law against rape.

 

 

Myth 2: If the age of consent for sexual act is lowered to 16 years, this will encourage child marriage, prostitution and trafficking.

 

Fact: The age of consent for sexual relations in India has stood at 16 years for the last 30 years, since 1983. The age was increased without adequate public discussion in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, May 2012, 9 months ago, and later, in the hasty Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance of Feb 4th 2013. The JVC report recommends that it be retained at 16 years as it always has been in the IPC, to prevent criminalization of young persons for consensual sex. Women’s groups are merely asking for it to be retained at 16 years, rather than increase it unthinkingly to 18 years.

 

Retaining age of consent at 16 years does not mean social or moral endorsement or encouragement of teenage sexual activity. The law is not asking young people to do this or that. This is merely an acknowledgement that if two young people consensually decide to engage in sexual contact, we might want to teach them and educate them but we do not want to treat them instantly as criminals, or consign them to custody. For that is what ‘age of consent’ means – it means that a boy who has sexual contact with someone below the age of consent is committing statutory rape. If that age is now raised to 18, it means that boys of 16-18 years, or slightly older, will be held guilty of committing statutory rape if they have consensual sex with another person who is also between 16-18 years. In such cases, the judge will have no discretion under law and will be forced to place such boys in protection home (if under 18 years) or in jails (18 or above).

 

Indian society does not wish to treat as criminals and rapists young men and women who might engage in consensual sexual acts. For we must recognize that ‘criminalizing as RAPE’, the consensual acts of young adults, will make most vulnerable our young men, particularly those from marginalized communities. Third party complaints of statutory rape against young boys will force the Courts to condemn them to prison (if over 18) or protection homes for juveniles (if under 18) for committing no crime other than consensual sexual contact.

 

We must retain the age at 16 because raising the age to 18 years does not provide additional protection to young women against rape or sexual assault. It only serves to increase societal control over the lives and decisions of young persons, both young men and women. To protect their fundamental rights including the right to choice and sexual autonomy and agency, the law must keep 16 years as the age of consent for sexual acts.

 

Why should the age of marriage be 18 years and consent for sexual acts be retained at 16 years?

 

The age of marriage must be retained at 18 years. Marriage is a serious commitment and entails many long-term responsibilities of life, and it is appropriate to keep the age of marriage at 18 years. But there is no merit or useful purpose served by keeping one uniform legal age for every act of a human being. Studies, surveys and research conducted across India, including in rural India, all indicate that young people are engaging in consensual sexual activity between the ages of 16-18 years. The anxiety and legitimate concerns of parents on this count is real and valid. However, the answer to that lies outside the law – in education in schools and within families, and communication between the parents, teachers and young persons.

 

Retaining the age of consent at 16 years is only to ensure that when teenagers engage in consensual sexual activity, it does not lead to young boys being punished and imprisoned. Retaining age of consent for sexual contact at 16 years does not have any bearing or adverse impact on the efforts to prevent child marriage, to which we all stand committed.

 

In any case, marriage of persons under 18 years is legal and valid under the law. Consequently, sex between spouses, one or both of who may be between 16-18 years is not criminalized. Raising the age of consent to 18 years, treats consensual sex between married persons, one or both of whom may be between 16-18 years, differentially from sex between unmarried persons of the same age group. Tainting an unmarried boy of under or above 18 years with the stigma of criminality for consensual sex is unduly harsh and discriminatory, when compared with the legal status of a married boy of the same age.

 

Will the age of consent at 16 years lead to more trafficking and forced prostitution of women and children?

 

It must be emphasized that key to the definition of RAPE is the absence of consent of the woman. Each case where there is such absence of consent must be treated as a crime and punished.

 

In the case of trafficking and forced prostitution this issue of ‘consent’ whether at 16 or 18 is totally irrelevant. In cases of trafficking or forced prostitution, the consent of the girl or woman at any age is neither free nor voluntary; it is coerced and hence in the eyes of law does not amount to consent. The issue of age is irrelevant in all cases of trafficking and forced prostitution. As pointed out in the Justice Verma Committee Report, the police and other powerful forces are complicit in the crime of trafficking and forcing women and children into exploitative work. The 2013 Bill has special provisions to deal with Trafficking and we must ensure that these are rigorously enforced by the police.

 

Myth 3: The offences of Voyeurism and Stalking will trap innocent men.

 

Fact: The offence of Voyeurism as defined in Sec. 354C IPC, is very specific and pointed in scope and has no possibility of misuse or abuse. In villages, towns and cities, we know that the poor do not enjoy the luxury of a private bathroom in their homes. This makes the young girls and women particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse even as they perform routine activities of bathing, attending to the call of nature in fields and open public places. They are always fearful of men who may use this occasion to watch them or take pictures of them as they perform these private activities. The offence of Voyeurism will punish a man who watches or records a woman while she is in any private act where her private body parts may be exposed. This offence seeks to uphold the dignity of women and makes the violation of their fundamental right to privacy a crime.

 

Stalking: The crime of stalking takes a serious toll on the life of women. Gripped by fear and anxiety due to being repeatedly followed by a man, girls and women have been forced to drop out of education, quit jobs and even change homes to escape the stalker. The rape and murder of the young law student Priyadarshini Mattoo, is a grim reminder that if the stalker is not stopped, he can rape and kill. Stalkers are also known to throw acid on their victims, as a way to take revenge. By making stalking a crime, the law can actually prevent rape and other forms of aggravated sexual crimes and save innocent women from being brutally sexually assaulted or killed. The codification of this crime will fill an important lacuna in the present law.  Only in situations where a man repeatedly follows a woman, either physically or through the Internet and this causes her fear or distress, will the crime of stalking be recognised as such.

Related Articles

 

 

PRESS RELEASE- Gender Just, Gender Sensitive and NOT Gender Neutral Rape Laws #Vaw #Justice


Parliamentary Committee ignores Verma Committee

 

The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the 2012 Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill as well as the 2013 Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance not only violates the letter and spirit of the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) recommendations but endangers and deepens women’s vulnerability in this country.

Representatives of women’s groups, democratic and human rights groups and activists are alarmed about the following major lacunae in current legislative protection to women, upheld by the Standing Committee report:

 

The Accused Must Be Male: One pernicious provision of the Ordinance 2013, upheld by the Committee report is blanket gender neutrality of the perpetrator of sexual harassment, assault and rape. Put simply: unlike in existing law where the accused is male, the Committee recommendations if enacted into a proposed new Bill, will make it possible for women to be charged with these offences. This is wholly unacceptable.

  • The Reality of Rape: It is an act of violence that must be seen in the context of deeply entrenched power inequalities between men and woman in our society.  Gender neutral provisions only strengthen those already powerful, silencing the real victims. The police and legal system are part of this inequity and bias against women, evident in the huge impunity for rape in our country. Recommending that these laws be gender neutral makes mockery of this reality.
  • The Chilling Effect: Apart from situations where women hold positions of statutory authority (like police officers, etc), in all other situations,  making the accused gender neutral means that complaints by women can be met with  counter-complaints to get them to withdraw. Given the current odds against women securing justice, the gender neutrality of accused in sexual violence laws, will have a deep chilling effect on women’s ability to even file complaints.
  • Men, not boys: There is no basis to the argument that gender neutral laws allow young boys to be protected from abuse, because all young boys and girls are fully protected by gender neutral laws in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012.

 

Age Of Consent Must Remain 16: The Standing Committee report endorses the 2013 Ordinance, by raising the age of consent from 16 to 18, thus criminalizing the consent of young persons and exposing them to unjust imprisonment by forcing judges to take action merely on third party complaints, including khap panchayats. At the very least, any proposed new law should allow for a Young Person’s Defence, where consent of young persons between 16-18 years is taken into account if there is no more than 4 years age difference between two consenting parties.

 

Rape Within Marriage Must Be Recognized As An Offence: Marital status must not have any bearing on the right of a woman to say no! The law must recognize when sexual assault and rape occur within marriage. Also, current IPC provisions recognizing rape in the context of judicial separation must be replaced by simple separation, given that most separated couples do not get judicial decrees, but simply start living apart. Without this change the law makers are only sending a signal that even while living apart from her husband, a woman can be raped by him without any recourse to justice.

We are also deeply concerned by the Standing Committee’s silence on ending impunity for sexual assault by security forces. The existing statutory immunity for armed forces ‘acting in the line of duty’ surely cannot apply to sexual assault committed on women. No sanction should be required to proceed with prosecution of such personnel in sexual assault cases.

As the 2013 Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance and the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee enter into Parliament for debate, we urge ALL PARTIES aligned with women’s rights to ensure that laws made in the wake of the brutal Delhi gang rape case do not leave women even more vulnerable than they already are.

Date: 6th March 2013, signed by:

– Kalpana Mehta, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Indore

– Vrinda Grover, lawyer, New Delhi

– Farah Naqvi, women’s rights activist, New Delhi

– Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, AIPWA

– Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development, New Delhi

– Chayanika Shah & Sandhya Gokhale, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay

– Deepti Sharma, Saheli, New Delhi

– Kamayani Bali Mahabal,  Kractivist

– Nandini Rao, New Delhi

– Albeena Shakil

– Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action, Bombay- Lawyers Collective, New Delhi

– Kalpana Vishwanath & Suneeta Dhar, Jagori, New Delhi

– Gautam Bhan, New Delhi

– AALI, Lucknow

– Nirantar, New Delhi

– Karuna Nundy, Advocate, Supreme Court of India

– Seema Misra, Lawyer, New Delhi

– Ayesha Kidwai, GSCASH, JNU

– Prita Rani Jha, Peace and Equality Cell

– Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression

 

Standing committee on home affairs invites suggestions on criminal alw (amendment) bill 2012


PRESS RELEASE

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON HOME AFFAIRS INVITES SUGGESTIONS ON THE CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2012

 

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012  as  introduced in   the  Lok  Sabha   on  4 December 2012  and  pending  therein,  has  been  referred  to  Department-related  Parliamentary  Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, M.P. Rajya Sabha for examination and report. The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to review laws related to rape/sexual offences.

2.         The Committee has decided to invite suggestions in the form of written memoranda from the public/associations/women organizations/civil societies, etc, on the provisions of the Bill.

3.         Those desirous of submitting written memoranda to the Committee, may send the same   to Shri D. K. Mishra, Joint Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 142, First Floor, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi-110001 {Tele: 23035410 (O) and 23012007 (fax)} latest by 28thJanuary, 2013.

4.         The memorandum which might be submitted to the Committee, would form part of its records and treated as confidential and, therefore, should not be printed, circulated or publicized by anyone, as such an act would constitute a breach of privilege of the Committee.

5.         Individuals/stakeholders may obtain, on written request, a copy of the Bill, from Shri Bhupendra Bhaskar, Assistant Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Cabin ‘A’, Basement, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi-110001 (Telephone No. 011-23034034). The electronic text of the Bill can also be down loaded from the Rajya Sabha Website www.rajyasabha.nic.in.® Bills with C

 

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