x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

India's new sexual violence law should be repealed, protesters say

Activists say the law only follows some of the recommendations of a government panel set up after the fatal gang rape of a woman in New Delhi two months ago.

NEW DELHI // Scores of demonstrators demanded yesterday that the Indian government repeal a new sexual violence law the Cabinet hurriedly passed last week and replace it with a more comprehensive measure.

Activists said the law, passed by the Cabinet on Friday and signed by the president Sunday, only followed some of the recommendations of a government panel set up after the fatal gang rape of a woman in New Delhi two months ago.

The new law has increased punishments for rape from the existing seven to 10 years to a maximum of 20 years. It also provides for the death penalty in extreme cases of rape that result in death or leaves the victim in a coma. It has also made voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.

The government decided to bring in the new law through an ordinance - which allowed it to take effect immediately, though it will have to be approved by Parliament within six months - since it viewed changing the law as a priority.

The protesters near Parliament criticised the new law as a smokescreen, because it does not deal with the issue of marital rape or sexual violence against women by armed forces personnel in conflict zones that had been recommended by the government commission. The new law also ignored the panel's recommendation to bar politicians facing rape charges from contesting elections.

"The recommendations came just a few days back and the government could have spent time on drafting a good bill ... a comprehensive bill and brought it to Parliament with candour and sincerity," said Maimoona Mullah, of the All India Democratic Women's Association.