- Special Pages
New Delhi: The UPA government is committed to getting the parliamentary nod for the anti-rape ordinance by March 22, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said yesterday.
“We are committed to passing the anti-rape ordinance in the parliament by March 22 under any circumstances... there will be a special cabinet meeting (for the purpose) shortly,” Kamal Nath told reporters.
The ordinance, which was promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 3, has to be approved by parliament within six weeks from the date of its promulgation. The first half of the ongoing budget session ends March 22 and the house will reconvene only on April 22.
The ordinance proposes death in rarest of rare cases of rape and for repeat offenders while keeping marital rape out of its ambit. According to informed sources, the government, which had replaced the word “rape” with “sexual assault” to make such crimes gender-neutral, is again considering going back to the original word.
The ordinance was framed by the government to show its intention to treat the issue of crimes against women with urgency and incorporated suggestions of the Justice J S Verma panel formed to give views to make anti-rape laws more strong. The parliamentary standing committee on home affairs has also endorsed the punishment.
A recent spate of attacks on women in Delhi has renewed fears over the safety of women in the capital and raised doubts over the efficacy of reforms introduced since the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in the city last December.
Two women are reported to have been raped by multiple attackers in moving cars in separate incidents in recent days. A third woman was robbed and then raped by two men after taking a motorised rickshaw in the satellite city of Ghaziabad at the weekend. Four victims under 18 were also assaulted in incidents reported to the police over the past four days, according to media. Only a fraction of such attacks are ever reported in India.
A series of measures — such as fast-track courts for sex crimes, harsher punishments for convicted offenders and gender training for policemen — have been introduced since the December attack by authorities.
The finance minister last week announced a new fund to improve the safety and empowerment of women. But reporting a 124 percent rise in reported rape cases in Delhi since the attack and a nearly six-fold rise in cases of harassment, the Hindustan Times newspaper said “the harsh reality is Delhi hasn’t changed for the better, it has become worse”.
Experts suggested a variety of causes for the new wave of violence against women ranging from stereotypes of aggressive masculinity projected by Bollywood films to a clash of cultures as millions of men raised in rural areas arrive in cities where women enjoy greater freedoms.
A commission set up to examine possible measures to combat the wave of violence against women received tens of thousands of suggestions from the general public. In Kerala officials are considering the distribution of “electronic bangles” which could send a signal to the nearest police station in the event of an assault.
The victim of the December attack was dubbed “Nirbhaya” or “the fearless one” by media for fighting back during the assault and for recording a statement despite massive internal injuries before she died. She will be posthumously awarded the US state department’s international women of courage award today by Michelle Obama, it was announced earlier this week.