CPI-M dissatisfied with new anti-rape bill

Kanpur, Mar.14 (ANI): The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction with the anti-rape bill drafted by the Centre in the wake of protests triggered by the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old Delhi woman in December last year.

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) panel had lowered the age of consent for sex to 16 years from 18 and it included stalking and voyeurism as crimes.

"There should be a tough law to take stringent action. We are not satisfied with it. We want that bill should include many recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee," said CPI-M General Secretary Subhasini Ali in Kanpur.

The government had set up a panel headed by Justice J S Verma and asked him to look at possible amendments of criminal law in response to public anger after the rape and subsequent death of the student.

In its report, the panel said, gang rape should be defined in the Indian Penal Code and be punishable by at least 20 years imprisonment in an event of death caused by rape.

The panel had also recommended that due to the number of reports of sexual offences committed by the armed forces in India's conflict areas such as Kashmir and the North East, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) - a controversial law that gives sweeping powers to and often confers immunity on security forces - must be reviewed - Security forces must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law rather than under army law.

Ali however demanded stringent action against those government officials who are involved in crimes against women.

"We are not convinced the way they are trying to protect government officials and administrative officials. Instead we need to act tough with them. In the Odisha episode, DGP misused his position to save his rapist son," said Ali.

A prominent outfit, the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), declared that they would fight for an empowered bill to be drafted based on the recommendations of Justice Verma committee.

"I don't think these aspects have been incorporated in the bill. So we will continue to struggle on these issues. We want an empowered bill to be drafted based on the recommendations of Justice Verma committee," said Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA secretary, in New Delhi.

Many of the crimes against women are in India's heavily populated northern plains, where, in parts, there is a deep-rooted mindset that women are inferior and must be restricted to being homemakers and childbearers.

Violence against women has a level of social acceptability in India. A government survey found 51 percent of Indian men and 54 percent of women justified wife beating.

India has robust gender laws, but they are hardly enforced, partly because a feudal mindset is as prevalent among bureaucrats, magistrates and the police as it is elsewhere. Politicians are also unwilling to crack down on customary biases against women for fear of losing conservative votes. (ANI)

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