Time limit for reporting sex crimes could change
The government is considering a proposal to allow sexual abuse survivors, including children, to lodge complaints long after the crime has been committed, Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said on Wednesday.
“We are looking at whether the statutory limitation on reporting incidents such as molestation can be removed, allowing people to complain later in life,” Gandhi said during the 25th anniversary celebrations of the National Commission for Women.
“In the West, many people had come out to complain against Catholic priests long after they were abused as kids,” she said. “We are looking at the proposal to see how we can push it forward.”
She said in Hollywood too, many women including actress have accused film producers such as Harvey Weinstein of abusing them over several years, one among several instances of women revealing past sexual assaults and naming and shaming prominent personalities.
Last month, Larry Nassar, a former team doctor for the US gymnastics team, was sentenced to more than 175 years in jail after several women, including three Olympic gold medalists, testified in court over his sexual abuse over several years.
Gandhi said that such victims of sexual abuse have an equal right to justice. “Also, one must remember that in many such cases the accused are repeat offenders. If action is not taken against them they can commit similar offence in future too,” she said.
In India, the statutory limit for reporting an incident of sexual abuse varies depending on the quantum of punishment for the crime.
“For instance, in cases of offence such as stalking where the maximum imprisonment is three years, the statutory time limit for reporting the incident is three years,” said Delhi police spokesperson Madhur Verma.
However, in cases where the maximum punishment is more than three years, there is no time limit.
Gandhi decided to take up the proposal after an Indian-origin woman working as a scientist in Canada and a victim of sexual abuse as a child, came to complain to her on Monday.
“The complainant came with DMK MP Kanimozhi to meet the minister. She narrated the ordeal she suffered as a child. She told the minister that she is still traumatised by what happened to her 51-years-ago,” said a senior WCD ministry official who did not want to be identified.
The woman requested Gandhi to have a provision in law to allow victims of sexual abuse to complain even years after the crime has been committed.
“I think such victims should get justice too, even if it’s late in life,” Gandhi said.
Soon after they left, Gandhi called a meeting to discuss the case.
“It was decided to refer the matter to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. We have told them to look into the matter and get back to us,” the WCD ministry official said.