Effective Tool against Gender-Related Violence
The passage of the anti-rape bill or the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 by the two houses of the Parliament should go down as legislative milestone in India’s history. Something that stirred the nation’s conscience deserved speedy legislation and the lawmakers rose to the task to place an effective instrument to deal with the most horrendous crime against the weaker gender.
The new law has taken a host of acts attendant to the rape such as gang-rape, stalking and voyeurism etc and for causing injury to the dignity of women and prescribes more stringent punishments for the perpetrators. The law not only provides for rigorous imprisonment for a minimum period of 20 years, but is also extendable to life imprisonment to those convicted for the offence of gang-rape and even death sentence for those causing death of the victims. By retaining the age of consensual sex at 18, same as that of the age of marriage, it has, for sure, averted prospects of complications. Sex having social, biological and moral consequences, should be only practised within the precincts of marriage as is asserted by nearly all the sacred scriptures. Perhaps the compulsions of secularism and the pressures from the global civil society organizations were such that the Government could not ignore them altogether. It is also indicative of the practical difficulties involved in turning a sin (i.e., consensual sex) into a crime by a State which does not poke its nose into private lives of people. It was perhaps thought better to be dealt through imparting of morals within families.
But there is room for criticism too. The bill totally ignores the factors such as obscenity, objectification of women through advertisements, so called beauty contests, fashion shows and cinema that triggers lust, the prime motivator for sex and thereby sex crimes. In fact, a section of the media has become so touchy about the subject that it begins to lampoon any section that raises voice against the dresslessness being promoted by it and a host of corporate interests. It is rather bizarre that the media and the film industry legitimize all kinds of obscenity in the name of freedom of the press and the individuals but do not balk from urging the society to be respectful to the opposite sex. Similarly, the law is silent about rape by men in security forces in the areas where AFSPA is in force. The Justice Verma Commission had called for changes in the section (6) of AFSPA to pave way for prosecution of those involved in crimes against women in civil courts. One hopes future amendments will take care of such pleas.