Sexual assault to replace ‘rape’ in IPC

NDTV 24X7 , MARCH 16, 2010 , NEW DELHI

Every 54 minutes a woman is raped in India, but less than 36 per cent of the rapists end up in jail. Rape has long been considered one of the worst crimes, almost at par with murder. For years, lawyers and activists have argued that the penalty for rape, currently seven years, is far too lenient. Now, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is all set to introduce dramatic changes, not just on rape but all sexual crimes. The government is planning to introduce a draft bill. And among the most controversial changes being worked on in the new bill, is about expanding the ambit of sexual assault. Feminists will welcome the change to expand the definition of rape beyond forced intercourse to include sexual assault.

The bill proposes a life term for convicted rapists and also seeks harsher sentences for assaults against minors and victims who have been gang raped or who were assaulted while in official custody to include shelter homes, hospitals and the police stations .  “Very often the victim goes to the police, because they don’t register a case. Very often the victim is raped there again. When they go for a medical checkup they are raped there too,” said Girja Vayas, Chairperson, National Commission for Women (NCW).

But the other proposals have divided public opinion sharply. For instance, the bill seeks to make sexual assault gender neutral by also including sexual violence by a man against another, a woman against a woman, and most controversially – by a woman against a man. “Men are also victims of crime. But yes it is true that it can lead to some false cases too and can be used to settle scores as intercourse does not need to take place,” said Ravi Kant, Activist, Shakti Vahini.

If the law makers do amend these provision of the IPC, it would mean not only stricter penalties for those who commit violent sexual offences, but also an acceptance of the new sexual orientation groups of modern India.

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