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Anti-rape Bill: GoM reaches consensus, 'sexual assault' now 'rape'


Pallavi Ghosh,CNN-IBN
Mar 13, 2013 at 10:30pm IST

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New Delhi: The Group of Ministers (GoM) that met on Wednesday to thrash out differences over the anti-rape bill has finalised the changes to it, Union Minister Kapil Sibal said. The Cabinet will take up the draft on Thursday.

Sources said that in the final draft, the word 'sexual assault' has been replaced by 'rape', thus making the bill women-centric. The age of consent for sex has been reduced from 18 to 16.

According to the sources, stalking and voyeurism have been made non-bailable offences. Also, the provision for false complaints has been removed. The sources also said that changes related to sodomy cases will be made in the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children Act.

The GoM was set up in view of persisting differences among ministers on its provisions at the meeting of the Union Cabinet on Tuesday. However, considering the urgency of the matter, the GoM was asked to submit its report tonight so that the Bill could be brought before the Cabinet on Thursday.

On the issue of stalking and voyeurism, some ministers were of the view that the provisions would be "prone to misuse" and should only be incorporated after putting in place sufficient safeguards, including harsh penalty for lodging false cases.

Stalking and voyeurism were for the first time defined as criminal offences in the Ordinance. Some parties like the Samajwadi Party have serious reservations on certain provisions of the ordinance claiming they are prone to misuse.

Lengthy inter-ministerial consultations had taken place on the issue of lowering of the age of consent from 18 years to 16 with the Women and Child Development Ministry strongly opposing the move.

The bill retains a key provision of the ordinance under which if rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state, it can also attract death penalty. The minimum punishment is 20 years in jail which may extend up to the "natural life" of the convict.

With additional information from PTI

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