Women right activists have welcomed the government’s move to Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill to make it gender sensitive and reduce the age of consent from 18 to 16.
“The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the 2012 Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill as well as the 2013 Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance not only violates the letter and spirit of the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) recommendations but endangers and deepens women’s vulnerability in this country,” around 10 women organsiations under the banner of Pension Parishad said.
They described the recommendation of the standing committee to make rape laws gender neutral as “wholly unacceptable and said that rape is an act of violence that must be seen in context of deeply entrenched power inequalities between men and power. “The police and legal system are part of this inequality and bias against women,” they said.
Making rape laws gender neutral, they said, would result in filing of counter complaints forcing women to withdraw and thus, creating an unjust system for them.
On the move to reduce age of consent to 16 years, the activists said that it would prevent criminalisation of consent between young persons.
“At the very least, any proposed new law should allow for a young person’s defence, where consent of young persons between 16-18 years is taken into account if there is no more than 4 years age of difference between two consenting parties,” the statement read.
They also demanded that rape within marriage should be recognized as an offence, a demand not accepted by the government so far. “Marital status must not have any bearing on the right of a woman to say no,” they said.