People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 12

March 24, 2013

 AIDWA on Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013

The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) issued the following statement on the recent Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013, from New Delhi on March 20, 2013.


THE AIDWA notes with disappointment that the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013, passed by the UPA government in the Lok Sabha today to amend the rape laws, has not taken into consideration the objections and issues that have been repeatedly raised by AIDWA and other women's organisations. We reiterate that the opportunity to provide comprehensive justice for women who have been subjected to sexual violence should not be lost, and call for their inclusion even at this stage. Some of the objections to the bill are as under:


1) Despite comprehensive suggestions made by the Verma committee in the laws relating to sexual assaults, the bill does not change patriarchal and anti-women provisions like Sections 354 and Section 509 of the archaic Indian Penal Code relating to molestation and “eve teasing.” These only punish assaults and gestures which “outrage the modesty of a woman” and are demeaning and insulting to woman.


2) Further, the bill retains the marital rape exception and states that sexual intercourse or sexual acts with a wife is not rape. This is against the provisions of the Indian constitution which considers women as equal human beings who have a right to live with dignity and be free from violence within and outside marriage. The government is, however, not willing to recognise and punish sexual violence within the marriage. The Verma committee report had pointed out that this exception “stems from an outdated notion of marriage which regarded wives as no more than the property of their husbands….”


3) Apart from this, while the proposed government bill of 2010 had added that if rape is committed by a person in a position of social, economic and political dominance this would be considered an aggravated form of offence, the present bill completely dilutes this suggestion and removes the words “social, economic and political” from Clause (k) under Section 376(2) of the IPC. This clause was meant to address rape which is often committed with impunity by those in positions of power on women from the most vulnerable sections of our society. Rapes by higher caste men on scheduled caste and scheduled tribe women should be considered an aggravated form of rape.


4) The AIDWA and other national women’s organisations had pointed out that young boys who are in a consensual relationship with a young girl who may be between 16 and 18 years of age must be protected from the criminal consequences of statutory rape. The social reality is that there are many instances of consensual sexual activity between girls who may be between the ages of 16 and 18 and boys who may be the same age or slightly older, and it would lead to injustice if these young boys were prosecuted for rape. It had therefore suggested that such consensual activity should be exempted from the purview of statutory rape provided the accused person was not more than five years older. However, this suggestion has not been inserted in the law.


Apart from this, the AIDWA had demanded that command responsibility must be recognised as recommended in the Verma committee report and made other suggestions regarding the non-inclusion of death penalty in the bill and other procedural changes which have not been inserted. The AIDWA therefore demands that these changes should be incorporated in the final act and the bill passed in the current session of parliament to ensure substantial justice for women.