Speaking during the discussion on the bill, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde noted that it is not merely an anti-rape legislation as it has new sections pertaining to voyeurism, acid attacks and human trafficking.
Those who stalk women can now be prosecuted, the minister stressed. He informed members of the Upper House that the age of consent for sex was only fixed at 18 after most of the political parties urged the Centre to do so.
Shinde pointed out that in the Indian Penal Code the age of consent is just 16. This change and other such modifications brought about in the existing laws were imperative to preserve the dignity of women, he said.
The bill will offer women an increased sense of security, he observed. Shinde said that if police officers fail to register FIRs when women approach them with complaints, then the officers can be hauled up for inaction under the new bill.
Averring that the bill is "not against men", the minister said that they will welcome the "rigid" legislation as it ensures greater protection to their mothers, sisters and daughters.
Nationwide protests over the Dec 16 gang-rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern in Delhi forced the central government to bring in the bill. Earlier this year, a commission headed by former chief justice JS Verma looked at the suggestions provided by the public, activists and political parties.
Though the Verma commission wanted marital rape to be made a criminal offence, the Centre did not agree. The commission felt that rapists do not deserve the death penalty but the ruling UPA decided to go along with the popular mood.
The anti-rape bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.