News / Asia

India Enacts Tough New Rape Laws

Scores of protesters have gathered near India's parliament house to protest a new law which they say is inadequate to deter all forms of sexual violence against women in New Delhi, India, February 4, 2013.
Scores of protesters have gathered near India's parliament house to protest a new law which they say is inadequate to deter all forms of sexual violence against women in New Delhi, India, February 4, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
In India, the government has passed tough new laws to tackle sexual violence against women. Demand for new legislation was sparked by a brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in India’s capital in December. Women’s rights activists say the laws do not go far enough in addressing the pressing issue.

A harsher punishment for rape will for the first time include the death penalty in cases where the victim dies or is left in a vegetative state. The minimum sentence for gang rape, rape of a minor or rape by a person in authority has been doubled from 10 to 20 years.

Trafficking of women and children will also be punished by longer jail terms. Voyeurism and stalking have been defined as new offenses.   

The tough new measures were signed into law by the president on Sunday. They had been passed with great speed in a country where law-making can be a tortuous process. Some of the measures were recommended just two weeks ago by a government-appointed panel set up to study women's safety issues following the huge public outrage over the gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi in December.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram says the ordinance meets the urgent need for an effective law to protect women. “Since there is a universal demand that the laws must be amended immediately, and criminal law can only apply prospectively, the government came to the conclusion that there was a strong case to promulgate an ordinance," he stated. "The government hopes that the stringent position will have a deterrent effect on potential criminals.” 

Women’s rights activists say the tough new laws mark a good beginning in tackling sexual violence directed against women. But they are concerned that two key recommendations of the government panel on women’s safety -- laws against marital rape and sexual assault by military personnel -- are not covered by the new laws.   

Ranjana Kumari of the Center for Social Research in New Delhi says domestic violence is a huge problem in India. “Marital rape is something which needs to be recognized by Indian law and also by Indian society. Unless we recognize that women will continue to be treated as object of sexual gratification," she said. "And will not be granted their own autonomy, independence and bodily integrity. You cannot go against consent of women, she is not your property.”

The government reached out to activists on Monday saying it is not ruling out addressing issues such as marital rape in future.

Minister Chidambaram says the government needs more time to reach a consensus on issues where there are divergent views.  

“Some of these rather difficult issues, just as one section or one group of persons hold a strong opinion, there is an opposite opinion held by another section. It is not as though there is complete unanimity on the issues on which we have not yet taken a position,” said Chidambaram.

There is also some controversy about including the death penalty for rape. Some lawyers and activists say the government had gone beyond the panel’s recommendation, which had ruled out death as punishment for rape.

The laws that have come into effect will have to be passed by parliament within six months.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
February 05, 2013 11:30 PM
From time immemorial every society undergoes a process of change and mankind elevates its levels accordingly. It is high time that the Indian society revisit the existing laws. As pointed out by Dr. Kumari on the rape in a protective institution of family, the gaps in revision has to be thoughtfully worked out. I request our politicians and bureaucrats to be more focused in reworking the gender laws. Let us not look into the issue comprehensively. There is an alarm to work on separate pieces of the issue perfectly in total agreement.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid