New Delhi, Mar 18: Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said on Monday that he was still quite optimistic about the new anti-rape bill being passed by parliament, despite an all-party meeting not arriving at a consensus during their first interaction here this morning.
Nath said: “The intention and the objective is to pass the bill. The bill does encompass a lot of things like dignity, protection of women. We will also speak to the other parties if they have a problem with the bill. We will also take suggestions of other parties and also try to fit in some of their clause in the bill, if agreeable.”
A new bill that proposes these laws must be introduced and cleared by Parliament by Mar h 22, when it takes a one-month break. If that does not happen, changes to laws punishing crimes against women, introduced through an ordinance by the government in February, will lapse.
The major point of dispute among parties is lowering the age of consent from 18 to 16. The BJP and some other parties feel this encourages pre-marital sex, since women have to be at least 18 years old to get married.
Earlier, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said it is not comfortable with stalking and voyeurism being recognised as criminal offences without clearer definition because this can be misused to file false cases against men.
The exigent need for updated and stronger laws to protect women was driven home grimly by the fatal gang rape of a medical student on a moving bus in Delhi in December. The monstrous attack triggered nationwide protests and a demand for better safety for women.
The government set up a three-member committee of legal experts to propose amendments to existing laws. The JS Verma Commission, named for the former chief justice who headed the panel, submitted its suggestions to the government, which incorporated most of them into an ordinance that was introduced in February.
The government over-rued the Verma Commission and introduced the death penalty for extreme cases of sexual assault. It also ignored the recommendation to criminalise marital rape. (ANI)