New Delhi, April 3: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 commonly known as the anti-rape bill came into force on Wednesday, April 3 after President Pranab Mukherjee put his signature into the bill.
The bill has been termed by the government as the "single pill" to address all ills (crimes) against women.
But, the question is whether the bill can protect women in India. Is having a bill enough to end crimes against women? Or, better implementation of laws, more sensitive police, civil society and change in mind set can tackle the issue of crime against women?
There were agreements and disagreements, but finally the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 or "anti-rape law" has been passed by Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) on Thursday, March 21. Earlier, the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on Tuesday, March 19. Once President Pranab Mukherkee ratifies it and issues a notification, the Bill will become a law.
The need for a strict law to deal with sex crimes against women was felt after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old Paramedical student in a moving bus in the national capital on December 16, last year.
The victim died 13 days after the incident in a Singapore hospital on December 29, last year. The brutality of the crime shocked the nation. Indians protested on the streets to demand better safety measures for women and strict laws to punish the culprits.
Under public pressure, Congress-led UPA government at the Centre formed Justice JS Verma panel to come up with strict laws to arrest crime against women. The Cabinet approved it, before it was put to test on the Parliament.
The Bill got nod from almost all the political parties, including main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with minor disagreements on some of the provisions in the Bill.
"We have tried to bring in a strong law, which is pro-women and will act as a deterrent," Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told lawmakers in the upper house of Parliament which approved the bill Thursday.
"Such legislation has come to India for the first time and the parliament has given its approval. It will create a revolution in the country," he added.
Some of the key points in anti-rape Bill
1. The law maintains life imprisonment for rape as the maximum sentence, yet sets down the death penalty for repeat offenders and those whose victims are left in a "vegetative state".
2. It also expands the meaning of rape to include penetration of the mouth, anus, urethra or vagina with the penis or any other object without consent.
3. It also defines stalking and voyeurism as crimes with punishments up to seven years.
4. Gang rape has been recognised as an offence, while sexual harassment has been redefined to include unwelcome advances with sexual overtures and showing pornography without consent.
5. The age of consent of sex has been kept at 18.
6. The law also punishes police and hospital authorities with imprisonment of up to two years if they fail to register a complaint or treat a victim.