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#India- Facts and Myths – Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2013 #Vaw #Justice #mustshare

FACTS AND MYTHS

THE CRIMINAL LAW () , 2013,

PROPOSED BY THE GOVERNMENT

March 16, 2013

 

FACTS AND MYTHS

THE (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2013,

PROPOSED BY THE GOVERNMENT

March 16, 2013

 

The Justice Verma Committee () report was a landmark statement, applauded by all citizens, welcomed by all Political Parties. was significant because it showed a mirror to the Constitution of , and reflected its wise and just guarantees of women’s equality. Today the women and youth of are looking with hope and expectation towards Parliament, and towards all Political Parties. We urge all Members of Parliament to pass a law upholding the spirit and letter of the Justice Verma Committee; to pass a law that makes a step forward in our collective struggle to end sexual violence in .

 

 

Myth 1: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 is against men.

 

Fact: The new anti-sexual violence Bill is NOT against men. For our fathers, brothers, husbands, partners, neighbours and colleagues are men too. Are these Men in our lives not committed to seeking an end to the constant threat of sexual violence lurking around every corner? Yes, men must, and men do support this Bill. For this bill is against criminals. It is against the scourge of sexual violence, and seeks to prevent and protect our society from heinous sexual crimes like , molestation, disrobing and parading women or stalking.

 

We know that men too can be vulnerable to sexual attacks by criminal men. And we welcome the Bill’s recognition that both men and women can be victims of acid attack and provides protection to all ‘persons’ for these offences. But we further ask you, our Parliamentarians, to recognize that men must also be protected against the crime of rape and custodial rape committed by other men, and to change the definition of victim in section 375 and section 376 (2) to ‘person’ and not restrict victimhood in these instances to women alone. Men and women are and must remain partners in this battle against sexual violence. And all ‘persons’ deserve protection of the law against rape.

 

 

Myth 2: If the for sexual act is lowered to 16 years, this will encourage child marriage, prostitution and trafficking.

 

Fact: The age of consent for sexual relations in India has stood at 16 years for the last 30 years, since 1983. The age was increased without adequate public discussion in the Protection of Children from , May 2012, 9 months ago, and later, in the hasty Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance of Feb 4th 2013. The JVC report recommends that it be retained at 16 years as it always has been in the IPC, to prevent criminalization of young persons for consensual sex. Women’s groups are merely asking for it to be retained at 16 years, rather than increase it unthinkingly to 18 years.

 

Retaining age of consent at 16 years does not mean social or moral endorsement or encouragement of teenage sexual activity. The law is not asking young people to do this or that. This is merely an acknowledgement that if two young people consensually decide to engage in sexual contact, we might want to teach them and educate them but we do not want to treat them instantly as criminals, or consign them to custody. For that is what ‘age of consent’ means – it means that a boy who has sexual contact with someone below the age of consent is committing statutory rape. If that age is now raised to 18, it means that boys of 16-18 years, or slightly older, will be held guilty of committing statutory rape if they have consensual sex with another person who is also between 16-18 years. In such cases, the judge will have no discretion under law and will be forced to place such boys in protection home (if under 18 years) or in jails (18 or above).

 

Indian society does not wish to treat as criminals and rapists young men and women who might engage in consensual sexual acts. For we must recognize that ‘criminalizing as RAPE’, the consensual acts of young adults, will make most vulnerable our young men, particularly those from marginalized communities. Third party complaints of statutory rape against young boys will force the Courts to condemn them to prison (if over 18) or protection homes for juveniles (if under 18) for committing no crime other than consensual sexual contact.

 

We must retain the age at 16 because raising the age to 18 years does not provide additional protection to young women against rape or . It only serves to increase societal control over the lives and decisions of young persons, both young men and women. To protect their fundamental rights including the right to choice and sexual autonomy and agency, the law must keep 16 years as the age of consent for sexual acts.

 

Why should the age of marriage be 18 years and consent for sexual acts be retained at 16 years?

 

The age of marriage must be retained at 18 years. Marriage is a serious commitment and entails many long-term responsibilities of life, and it is appropriate to keep the age of marriage at 18 years. But there is no merit or useful purpose served by keeping one uniform legal age for every act of a human being. Studies, surveys and research conducted across India, including in rural India, all indicate that young people are engaging in consensual sexual activity between the ages of 16-18 years. The anxiety and legitimate concerns of parents on this count is real and valid. However, the answer to that lies outside the law – in education in schools and within families, and communication between the parents, teachers and young persons.

 

Retaining the age of consent at 16 years is only to ensure that when teenagers engage in consensual sexual activity, it does not lead to young boys being punished and imprisoned. Retaining age of consent for sexual contact at 16 years does not have any bearing or adverse impact on the efforts to prevent child marriage, to which we all stand committed.

 

In any case, marriage of persons under 18 years is legal and valid under the law. Consequently, sex between spouses, one or both of who may be between 16-18 years is not criminalized. Raising the age of consent to 18 years, treats consensual sex between married persons, one or both of whom may be between 16-18 years, differentially from sex between unmarried persons of the same age group. Tainting an unmarried boy of under or above 18 years with the stigma of criminality for consensual sex is unduly harsh and discriminatory, when compared with the legal status of a married boy of the same age.

 

Will the age of consent at 16 years lead to more trafficking and forced prostitution of women and children?

 

It must be emphasized that key to the definition of RAPE is the absence of consent of the woman. Each case where there is such absence of consent must be treated as a crime and punished.

 

In the case of trafficking and forced prostitution this issue of ‘consent’ whether at 16 or 18 is totally irrelevant. In cases of trafficking or forced prostitution, the consent of the girl or woman at any age is neither free nor voluntary; it is coerced and hence in the eyes of law does not amount to consent. The issue of age is irrelevant in all cases of trafficking and forced prostitution. As pointed out in the Justice Verma Committee Report, the police and other powerful forces are complicit in the crime of trafficking and forcing women and children into exploitative work. The 2013 Bill has special provisions to deal with Trafficking and we must ensure that these are rigorously enforced by the police.

 

Myth 3: The offences of Voyeurism and Stalking will trap innocent men.

 

Fact: The offence of Voyeurism as defined in Sec. 354C IPC, is very specific and pointed in scope and has no possibility of misuse or abuse. In villages, towns and cities, we know that the poor do not enjoy the luxury of a private bathroom in their homes. This makes the young girls and women particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse even as they perform routine activities of bathing, attending to the call of nature in fields and open public places. They are always fearful of men who may use this occasion to watch them or take pictures of them as they perform these private activities. The offence of Voyeurism will punish a man who watches or records a woman while she is in any private act where her private body parts may be exposed. This offence seeks to uphold the dignity of women and makes the violation of their fundamental right to privacy a crime.

 

Stalking: The crime of stalking takes a serious toll on the life of women. Gripped by fear and anxiety due to being repeatedly followed by a man, girls and women have been forced to drop out of education, quit jobs and even change homes to escape the stalker. The rape and murder of the young law student Priyadarshini Mattoo, is a grim reminder that if the stalker is not stopped, he can rape and kill. Stalkers are also known to throw acid on their victims, as a way to take revenge. By making stalking a crime, the law can actually prevent rape and other forms of aggravated sexual crimes and save innocent women from being brutally sexually assaulted or killed. The codification of this crime will fill an important lacuna in the present law.  Only in situations where a man repeatedly follows a woman, either physically or through the Internet and this causes her fear or distress, will the crime of stalking be recognised as such.

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Comments (14)

  1. Swarna

    Why the womens groups aggresively encouraging minor girls to have sex. we do not want minor girls (below 18) to watch A rated movies , but you want them to have sex! How ridiculous.The womens groups are causing immense pain and sadness to parents of young girls , by insisting on they encouraging minors to have sex.Curse on you

    • A clarification- the age of consent is not being “lowered” – it is already at 16 years and has been so for the past three decades. And it already reflects the reality that there is consensual sexual activity among 16 and 17 year olds, whatever anyone, including the moral brigade, might like to believe. Do we want to criminalise those young boys? . This provision is mostly going to be used to penalise inter-caste/inter-religious relationships where the girl is below 18 and above 16. Think of how disastrous that is going to be.

      • Swarna

        Look at the other view point.a girl below 18 years is a child ,right. who is to take decisions on behalf of children,that too big decisions in life , like who should be life partner? is it not the parents. so you mean to say for the child (minor girl , mind you) the boy should be more important than the parents? .you want to protect the boys urges than the love and affection of the parents towards their child? are we not aware, there are too many non serious , part time lovers seeking a few night stands,luring young girls. are you not aware that most such cases,the boys use the girls and leave them.
        I am baffled at women’s groups priorities.They are copying all systems from west.so you also want teenage pregnancies,17 year old single mothers,abonded fatherless children,child mothers not remembering who the father of her child is…..very scary.
        Listen: This way you will fast loose credibility and parents will be scared of the women’s groups. A few families which I know are all ( since few days) thinking how to save our children from the so called women’s groups ( or activists or feminists) , whatever you call them.
        Anyway you seem to have an hidden agenda of destroying India’s family system (instead of reforming and correcting whatever faults are).you seem to be winning.

        Hope some of us will save our children from you

    • Kindly check this link… it might help give you a better understanding. https://www.facebook.com/groups/IndianFeminists/?ref=ts&fref=ts

    • I think this youtube video would address your main concerns, and some of the points mentioned here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbMlyog-XCY&feature=youtu.be

  2. Swarna

    I forgot one more point.:You ( i.e feminists) have one more BIG PROBLEM.whosoever has a other point of view and do not agree with you, they are ‘MORAL BRIGADE’…or traditional patriarchy mindset person.
    Very difficult to convince you….but thought at least let me vent out my thoughts. sorry If i have disturbed you.you may dismiss my comments as old generation moral brigade’s ranting

    • Swarna before you start denouncing feminism i really do think you need to keep an open mind and do research on the subject.

      Yes parents do have a say on a what goes on with their children, but are you saying that that as a society, that most parents and families make the right choices for their children?! India has one of the highest incidences of child abuse (physical or sexual) and often that is at the hands of a family member, and very so often it is covered up.

      Even though dowry, child marriage and untouchabilty has been supposedly abolished and illegal in India it is still practices it is still considered tradition. Can you deny that mmost families still look at marriage as TRANSACTION,of money or property rather the joining of 2 individuals or families?!

      Just because you are the parent does not mean YOU have total right to do as you please with you children, you definitely have the right to do what is GOOD for your children, but not what is bad.

      Please understand, that the idea behind this article is not encourage sex or say parents dont have rights to care or protect their children, it is to bring out a healthy debate and point our certain flaws in the system,

      AND Before you denounce feminism or women groups, realize and understand what they do, they seek to improve the conditions of victims of rape and abuse, that stand against gender based violence or groups that rally in support of breast cancer and similar humanitary activities. Please do read more articles on feminism in India, perhaps it will give you a broader perspective of what feminism is really about.

      They seek to improve the condition of women everywhere, they seek to attain equal rights for everyone. They seek to ensure that us women can travel safe and not live in fear, and treated as humans than treated differently cos we were born a girl.

      • Swarna

        To Cindy Almeida

        (Just because you are the parent does not mean YOU have total right to do as you please with you children, you definitely have the right to do what is GOOD for your children, but not what is bad.)

        YOUR REPLY IS MORE SCARY AND DICTATORIAL. Who decides what is good for the child and what is bad for the child? And who has the right to decide on behalf of minor children?
        in the context of the subject under discussion, If a minor girl ( I REPEAT ,MINOR GIRL)is lured into a relationship and parents object, will you (feminists group) will take action against parents! and support the MINOR GIRL and the BOY!
        IF YOU say yes, I have nothing more to discuss. I foresee ( and wish) more khap panchayat kind of bodies to protect their CHILDREN (I REPEAT CHILDREN) from the feminists. GOOD LUCK

  3. Swarna

    see this : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ranchi/Anti-rape-bill-or-a-licence-for-free-sex/articleshow/18995964.cms

    (Women activists, too, feel that the proposed bill is contradictory and erroneous. A stronger law is needed to check the soaring sex crime graph.

    Poonam Anand, a social activist in the city said, “On the one hand, the marriageable age is 18 but on the other, the anti-rape bill allows consensual sex at the age of 16 years. This will only deteriorate the condition of women in the society. The government is again forcing the future of young girls into darkness.”

    Expressing concern and anguish, Anand questioned, “What if a girl gets pregnant at the tender age of 16? She will have to wait to turn 18 to get married with a baby in her arm. Meanwhile, the society will boycott her as this is unacceptable in India. This will depress her and she might end up committing suicide finding no option as our law prohibits abortion.” She said this bill will also lead to a rise in female foeticides.)

  4. (1) //We know that men too can be vulnerable to sexual attacks by criminal men. And we welcome the Bill’s recognition that both men and women can be victims of acid attack and provides protection to all ‘persons’ for these offences. But we further ask you, our Parliamentarians, to recognize that men must also be protected against the crime of rape and custodial rape committed by other men, and to change the definition of victim in section 375 and section 376 (2) to ‘person’ //

    It is interesting that throughout your article you have failed to mention that women too can be perpetrators of sexual crimes. your article seems to give the illusion that only CRIMINAL MEN are can, so what of CRIMINAL Women?! Are you saying that there is no women do not rape other women or MEN (could be boys even) for that matter?! … whether such crimes where women are perpetrators of crime seem less, its does mean they DO NOT exist.

    I am a girl and I was sexually assaulted and harassed by women too. Starting from my teachers to my seniors who sexual forms of ragging was OK. Women too can be perpetrators of domestic violence, I have no doubt in India at least some of us are witness to violent female relative who is verbally abusive of physically violent to their husband’s relatives or children. Let us not kid ourselves.

    Let us ensure that the law is clear, that it emphasis is that criminals have NO gender, neither do their victims.

    (2) //Retaining the age of consent at 16 years is only to ensure that when teenagers engage in consensual sexual activity, it does not lead to young boys being punished.//

    I do not see the necessity of of retaining the age of consent to 16, it is a slippery slope… I know in UK and Australia children engage in sexual activities. So what are we do to do reduce the AGE OF CONSENT to 13 then on the premises that is could or might be consensual (very often it is coerced) and more so often they are immature to realize any better. JUST as marriage is a serious commitment and entails many long-term responsibilities of life and you have rightly assumed it is appropriate to keep the age of marriage at 18 years. I reckon its is just as appropriate that age of consent to be restricted to 18 and above.

    Your concern is about boys being charged with statutory rape, well then its up to the parents (for both boys and girls) the society, educational institutions and government to create awareness on everything regarding, rape and statutory rape in all its forms, including gender based violence, bullying and so on.

    We live in a country where our the law is far from enforced nor do we have system where evidence is effectively processed or reported or investigated. In such, an environment, it is very easy to state that RAPE was in fact consensual.

    It may be unfair in certain situations where it was genuinely consensual however such a law would be loophole abused by lawyers when it comes to cases of rape or coercion/blackmail into sex. Perhaps in a situation where our laws are effectively enforced where society at large and law enforcers have been effectively sensitized on how to treat such cases we can make provision for ages between individuals 16-18 engaging in consensual sex to be reprimanded in some manner not necessarily incarcerated in jail. Maybe some sort of counselling, im not an expert on that perhaps that one is up for debate between child and family psychologists.

    (3)//It must be emphasized that key to the definition of RAPE is the absence of consent of the woman. Each case where there is such absence of consent must be treated as a crime and punished.//

    The key def of RAPE is the absence of consent of any person and not just “women”.

    BEYOND that, i very much agree with the article. Just need to replace the terms ‘men’ and/or ‘women’… with person(s).

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