India activists demonstrate against new rape legislation
APNEW DELHI--Scores of demonstrators demanded Monday that the Indian government repeal a new sexual violence law the Cabinet hurriedly passed last week and replace it with a more comprehensive measure.
February 5, 2013, 12:14 am TWN
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.
Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said 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 criticized the new law as a smokescreen, because it doesn't 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.