The government proposes to make it mandatory for all hospitals in the country-public or private- to provide free of cost first aid and treatment to women victims of any sort of violence, including acid attack.
This new provision is part of the latest changes in the anti-rape laws to be considered by the Union cabinet in its special meeting on Tuesday. There is a sense of urgency in the government as it has to pass the criminal laws amendment bill before March 22 to avoid the relapse of the related ordinance.
The cabinet proposal mentions perpetrators as 'gender-specific' or men-shifting away from the initial plan of keeping them gender-neutrals. The proposed law, however, defines victims of sexual assault as gender-neutral. In other words, men can be tried for raping women or sodomizing boys under the law.
The other key amendment of the bill is that it replaces 'sexual assault' with 'rape' but in case of false complaints, provisions for strict penalties are also provided. At a recent meeting of political parties, several leaders had expressed concerns over the possibility of misuse of stricter anti-rape law.
Justifying the decision to replace 'sexual assault' with 'rape', the law ministry argued that "the term rape is widely accepted." The government also intends to make provision so that penalty imposed on perpetrators can be used for funding the relief and rehabilitation of rape victims.