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Sexual harassment ordinance remains silent on AFSPA, marital rape


Pallavi Ghosh,CNN-IBN
Feb 02, 2013 at 09:34am IST

New Delhi: Just days after the Justice Verma Committee made its recommendations to amend laws relating to sexual assault, the Cabinet has passed an ordinance. The punishment for rape could range from 20 years to even death in extreme cases, but the ordinance remains silent on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and marital rape.

"The UPA government has responded to the sensitivities of the people," Law Minister Ashwini Kumar said. The Cabinet met at a short notice to approve the ordinance just to prove this point.

ALSO SEE Sexual harassment ordinance cleared; rapists in extreme cases to get death

It has faced criticism on inability to feel the pulse of the people in the street protests and also Justice JS Verma. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were keen on a damage control.

The ordinance accepts most of the suggestions of Justice Verma Committee report. According to the ordinance, the punishment for rape can go up to 20 years in jail. A death sentence can also be given in extreme cases, which includes permanent body damage to a woman.

The word 'rape' will now be called 'sexual assault'. Sexual crime means unfavourable portrayal of women, stalking, women trafficking and acid attacks.

But the ordinance remains silent on marital rape. It also remains silent on another recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee, that is, changes in AFSPA. The Cabinet has also not accepted that politicians who face charges of sexual abuse should be debarred. The Cabinet is waiting for a consensus on this.

The government now hopes to make more changes once the ordinance is referred to Parliament for approval.

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