The word ‘rape’ could go out of the Indian Penal Code, replaced by a more inclusive ‘sexual assault’ that would place non-consensual oral or anal sex at par with forcible sexual intercourse under a comprehensive review of rape laws finalised by a panel at the home ministry.
The panel has recommended raising prison terms for various sexual offences. To protect the victim, it has proposed barring the accused’s counsel from raising questions about the victim’s character or antecedents during court proceedings.
It also requires the court to ensure the victim is not confronted by the accused during cross-examination.
The draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2010 was finalised by a high-powered committee headed by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai recently.
The panel has, however, steered clear of Section 377 that deals with “unnatural sex” and was invoked against homosexuals till the Delhi High Court came to their rescue.
Home ministry spokesman Onkar Kedia said the draft had been made public to seek responses from civil society and state governments.
The law commission had given its recommendations on reviewing rape laws nearly a decade back, in 2000.
In a fresh clause to protect minors, the Pillai panel not only changed the definition of minors to 18 years — rather than 15 and 16 years in the penal code — but also introduced the concept of sexual abuse of minors.
This provision would treat a man, or a woman — who invites, counsels, incites or exhibits pornography to a minor to be able to touch any part of the minor’s body — as a sexual offender and be liable for a 10-year jail term.
The proposed provisions raise the jail term for non-consensual sex by a man with his wife to a minimum of two years and a maximum of seven years, up from the upper limit of two years.