The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) has decided to fix the age of consent to 16 years in case of rape. Offences like voyeurism, stalking and public disrobing of a woman have also been included in the new draft.
The new tough Anti-Rape Law, which will be known as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013, has reduced the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years overriding the objections raised by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) on the age of consent. Of course, the EGoM has tried to minimize the chances of misuse of the new anti-rape law by differentiating rape from other sexual offences. The term ‘sexual assault’ has been replaced with rape, making the provision woman centric and gender specific.
As per the new law, voyeurism is proposed to be made a bailable offence, while stalking and disrobing non-bailable offences and (not confirmed) a repeat offence of voyeurism, inappropriate touch, gesture and remarks have been recommended as non-bailable offences.
While WCD minister Krishna Tirath was pressing hard to keep intact the age at 18, the EGoM was of the view that the age of consent should be lowered to 16 years keeping in view the contemporary increase of greater sexual awareness and growing sexual activity by that age. The EGoM felt that keeping the age of consent at 18 years would leave uncovered criminal sexual activity among youth of the 16-18 age groups.
Importantly, the bill also recommends that in case of rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in a comma state, death penalty can also be awarded to the convicted. Lest, the minimum punishment is 20 years in jail which may extend up to the “natural life” of the convict in case of rape. The new law will be placed before an all-party meeting on March 18.