Updated: Oct 28, 2021
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, typically known as the anti-rape laws, was introduced as a result of the Nirbhaya Gang Rape in 2012 due to the spotlight on the Government to bring immediate reforms in rape laws. After the gruesome incident, the Governments of India and Delhi were advised to ‘take any action in their power to make India safer for women’ by the United Nations. The law was passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on 19th and 21st March 2013 respectively. It was introduced primarily to take into consideration the rarest of rare crimes encountered by women and underscore the various forms in which gender-based discrimination can manifest itself.
The story or motive behind this amendment began on 16th December 2012 when a 23-year-old physiotherapist was raped and fatally assaulted. The case was ruthless in nature attracting attention from across the country and abroad. The five men and one juvenile accused were arrested the next day with adequate evidence. The court after deliberation for a few days and extreme political and public pressure announced a three-year imprisonment for the juvenile and 4 others were awarded death penalty (one of them was found dead in his prison cell).
Acknowledging the disbelief of the public in the country’s legal system , the Supreme court established the Justice Verma Committee. It was formed to review the judgements and suggest measures for amendments in the existing rape laws to make it more efficient and compatible with all kinds of sexual assault.
The committee brought about four major recommendations which include:
1) PUNISHMENT FOR RAPE: The committee suggested that instead of a death penalty, rape attempt should attract rigorous punishment and imprisonment for 7 to 20 years to life imprisonment depending on the intensity of the crime.
2) OTHER SEXUAL OFFENCES: Other sexual offences such as Voyeurism and stalking should be recognized by the constitution and attract up to 7 and 3 years of rigorous imprisonment respectively. Other crimes such as Acid attacks and trafficking shall drive up to 7 and 10 years of rigorous imprisonment respectively.
3) REGISTRATION OF COMPLAINTS AND MEDICAL PROCEDURE: A police officer is expected to bestren in his conduct. He is expected to take Immediate and sensitive action towards rape cases and file an FIR immediately after the crime has been reported. Unwilling to do so shall result in punishment. The committee also suggested a uniform protocol for medical examination after the crime.
4) BILL OF RIGHTS FOR WOMEN: A separate bill of rights for women shall be introduced to guarantee complete sexual autonomy to women.
Amendment of the provisions of Indian Penal Code, 1860
1) 354A: Sexual Violence: The act of sexual violence has been made gender neutral providing protection to both but limiting to male and female. It also includes the offence of sexually colored remarks attracting punishment up to a year.
2) 354B: The provision no more refers to sexual offence against women as harming her modesty and has taken a step to clearly define that as an act of assault or criminal force or disrobing the women which shall lead to a punishment up to 3-7 years.
3) 354C: It recognizes the act of Voyeurism, which is the act of watching a person engaged in private activities or subsequently clicking pictures of the same shall be rewarded with less than one or up to 7 years of imprisonment depending upon its intensity.
4) 345D: It recognizes the act of Stalking, which refers to an attempt to make contact despite disinterest that can be both physically or electronically
5) 375: The rape laws have especially taken the task of defining the term rape with the phrases of forced penetration of male genitals or forced insertion of objects into the vagina (with reference to the gang rape of 2012) or the application of mouth or manipulation of body parts including forceful touching of intimate parts.
The amendments have also stressed the importance of consent and the role of non-consent in rape trials. Any act of attempt to rape or the act of rape shall attract a minimum of 7 years of imprisonment. The death of the victim or vegetative condition shall be dealt with a death penalty or life imprisonment.
1) The exclusion for criminalization of marital rape has evoked immense hate and distrust in the system. The judicial denial for the same was reasoned with the destruction of the institution of marriage and difficulty in proving and collecting evidence. This attracted protests throughout the country but has still not managed to bring a change.
2) Transgenders, even though are a victim of such sexual offences, cannot claim protection. Men can claim protection only under certain sections of the act which has provoked criticism for a more gender-neutral rather than a women-centric amendment.
Despite its criticisms, the amendment has definitely had remarkable changes such as the introduction of new offences and specifying the definition of rape that has made a major impact in our battle against sexual assaults and violence against women. However, the judicial system has a long way to go with much bigger battles to fight dealing with gender-neutral laws and criminalization of marital rapes.