In India men in uniform may face stiffer rap for rape

In keeping with increasing instances of sexual misconduct by men in uniform and in positions of authority, the National Commission for Women (NCW) is pushing for a radical overhaul of laws on crimes against women, including the anti-rape law, to make punishment more stringent.

The NCW is seeking higher punishment for policemen, public servants and employers, for not just rape but sexual offences that stop short of forced penile penetration. The maximum punishment for non-rape offences, it proposes, should be increased from five years to 10 years in jail.

It has suggested a broader definition of sexual assault to include “introduction” instead of “penetration” as the defining crime and to include anal and oral sex on an unwilling woman or minor. Towards this end, the Commission has proposed a slew of changes in the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act.

Said NCW chairperson Girija Vjas: “The need for a new law on sexual assault was felt as the present law does not define and reflect various kinds of sexual assault that women are subjected to in our country.” She said the Supreme Court had, in the Sakshi vs Union of India case, recognized the inadequacies in the law relating to rape and suggested that the legislature bring about the necessary changes.

NCW has also suggested changes in the process of reporting, medical examination and the role of police officials. While several of the amendments are already in practice following Supreme Court rulings, the Commission strongly pitched for bringing about changes in the law to dispel any ambiguity.

In its 172nd report, the Law Commission had examined the laws relating to rape and sexual assault and suggested their complete overhaul. In keeping with that, the NCW has sought amendments to sections 375, 376, 354 and 509 of IPC. While NCW has accepted almost all amendments suggested by the Law Commission, it has differed on one: the NCW has asked for deletion of section 376A that invites a two-year prison term and fine if a husband has sexual intercourse with his wife without her consent while the two are living apart.

The NCW has also come down heavily on sexual offences committed under judicial custody. It has proposed that if a police official commits sexual assault within the limits or on the premises of the police station where he is appointed or commits assault on a woman or child under 16 years of age, he should be liable for a minimum punishment of 10 years in jail and a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

The staff or management of a hospital, remand home or a women’s or children’s institution committing such an act should be liable to punishment from five years to 10 years in jail and a fine, NCW has said.

The commission has suggested the introduction of a new section — 376D — that would make any man who touches, directly or indirectly, any part of a woman’s body with sexual purpose, liable to three years’ imprisonment. In order to discourage incest, NCW has said that if the offender is related to the woman, the prison term should be increased to seven years. Unlawful sexual contact in the case of a minor would invite a five-year term and if the minor is in a relationship of dependency to the offender, the punishment could be increased to seven years.

The number of rape cases reported has been increasing steadily. NCW received 57 complaints in January 2009 which increased to 61 in June this year. “These are cases that have come to us. There are many other women who do not have the courage to complain,” Vyas said.

Accordingly, the commission has redrafted a scheme to rehabilitate victims and give them compensation. The NCW has also suggested repeal of the Section 377 of IPC (dealing with homosexuality) and addition of a new section that is in line with the Delhi High Court’s ruling. The commission on Saturday reiterated its stand that it would hold wide-ranging consultations on the issue of homosexuality.

See also: The National Commission for Women (NCW) on Saturday rooted for a rehabilitation scheme for rape victims which would help them get back their life on track.

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