Radical changes in new bill on crimes against women



New Delhi: A bill which seeks to make punishment for crime against women more stringent is different on at least four counts from an ordinance issued recently, including making rape gender specific and doing away with the concept of 'sexual assault' which is more gender neutral.

The proposed changes once brought about would mean that only men can be charged with rape now.

The change was necessitated following demands by women's rights groups who had maintained that laws should be more gender sensitive than gender neutral.

The other proposal is understood to be replacing the provision in the ordinance which has subscribed life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for those in authority committing rape.

Now, a person in authority convicted of rape will have to spend rest of his "natural life" in jail.

The person in authority has been described as a police officer, a personnel of the armed forces, a doctor or a staffer of a hospital, a jailer or a warden of a remand home.

A fresh proposal now makes it mandatory for all government and private hospitals in the country to provide free medical treatment to women victims of any form of sexual violence.

Hospitals and similar facilities will not have to wait for the police. They can straight away start treatment after informing the police.

The refusal to do so will now be a criminal offense and attract a one-year jail term for top bosses and the staff on duty of hospitals found guilty of turning away victims of sexual violence needing immediate medical care.

The bill proposes that the age of consent be lowered from 18 to 16. The issue led to lengthy inter-ministry consultations with some arguing that it should not be reduced.

Sexual intercourse under the age of consent is considered statutory rape.

PTI