‘Rape’ to replace ‘sexual assault’ in Bill

Bowing to pressure from several women’s groups,and accepting the recommendation of the J S Verma Committee,the government

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published:March 6, 2013 12:27 am

Bowing to pressure from several women’s groups,and accepting the recommendation of the J S Verma Committee,the government has decided to reintroduce the word ‘rape’ to replace ‘sexual assault’ in the new draft amendments to criminal laws that is to be put before the Cabinet for approval.

The phrase ‘sexual assault’ is considered to be gender-neutral. Many women’s organisations have urged the government to define rape as a specific crime perpetrated on a woman. The J S Verma Committee,which was asked to suggest changes in criminal law to make punishments for sexual crimes more stringent,had recommended that rape be allowed to remain as a separate crime within the overall offence of sexual assault.

However,in the recent ordinance that the government has promulgated,the word ‘rape’ has been substituted by the phrase ‘sexual assault’ in all the relevant provisions. The phrase ‘sexual assault’ widens the offence and brings in gender neutrality,thereby helping in applying the same provisions for child abuse as well,irrespective of the gender of the victim.

However,the new draft Criminal Law Amendment Bill,that will replace the ordinance,has gone back to using the word ‘rape’,sources said. The draft Bill is likely to be placed before the Cabinet on Thursday.

Interestingly,the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs,which was examining a previous version of these amendments put before Parliament last year,had backed the use of the phrase ‘sexual assault’ instead of ‘rape’.

The new Bill is also learnt to have provided for lowering the age of consensual sex from 18 years to 16 years. This again is in accordance of the suggestion of the Verma Committee. Both,last year’s draft amendments and this year’s ordinance,have kept the age of consent at 18 years.

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