BJD MP Panda for replacement of word rape with sexual assault

Bhubabneswar: Seeking reforms in judicial, police and legislative fronts to effectively deal with crimes against women, senior BJD MP Baijayant Panda on Sunday suggested Justice Verma Committee to replace the term "rape" with "sexual assault."

Panda, Lok Sabha MP from Kendrapara in Odisha, in a letter to Justice J S Verma said replacement of the term rape by sexual assault would ensure that all cases of forceful, unwanted and non-penetrative sexual assault such as groping, molestation, stripping, oral sex and others which violate the physical integrity, are punished.

Noting that the recent gang-rape incident has exposed systemic flaws in criminal justice system that denies a fair trial and speedy justice to victims and their families, and punishment to the guilty, Panda said, "exception of marital rape must be removed recognising the rights of every woman."

Demanding stronger rape-shield laws, he suggested limiting what defence can ask the victim about her previous sexual history.

"There should be provision of punitive action against those people/media who intentionally disclose details that may lead to identification of the victim," he said. A public registry of convicted offenders must be maintained, the minister said.

Favouring increase in the number of police women, the Lok Sabha MP said police force must be sensitised to handle such cases. Instituting a police ombudsman, who would be given the power and authority to conduct internal audits and random checks in police stations, in order to prevent the neglect and misconduct of police personnel with women, he said.

Investigating officers in cases of sexual assault must always be a woman, he said, adding the number of judges must be doubled and provide them with requisite infrastructure that will facilitate speedy justice.

"The enhanced capacity must function as fast track courts," he suggested.