Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Tuesday said the stricter version of criminal laws recently passed by Parliament would give women a better sense of security and empower them to act against any kind of harassment. He, however, expressed dismay at the opposition to lowering the age of consent for sex to 16 and putting it at 18 years in the amended law.

“Yes, there is fear [among women] at the moment … but that will now go. We should not forget that a large number of girls were going to BPOs, and there was no fear. If an incident [the Delhi gang rape of December 16, 2012] has happened, we have to correct ourselves. Ours is a civilised society,” Mr. Shinde said at a conference on police reforms.

“Yes, that [rape] incident has opened our eyes. Everyday there are rapes. It happened in Delhi and all citizens came forward … right from the press, the judiciary and the government [to take corrective steps].”On the criticism over the issue of age of consent for sex, Mr. Shinde said it was “ignorance of law” among some people. “The consent age of 16 years was incorporated in IPC in 1860. No one had looked into it [then] but when my ordinance came for correcting this ... the whole Parliament was against it. I brought it to the notice [of people that] this law [on age of consent] was in existence…but we have not realised that it was in existence.”

Quick reforms needed

Referring to the policing system, Mr. Shinde said it needed quick reforms. “The policing system needs to be upgraded effectively to deal with crime and criminals and to safeguard the interest of one and all …”He said the Model Police Act was circulated to all States. “So far 15 States have enacted a new Police Act or amended the existing Acts. Other States lag behind in completing the task. Special focus is needed to check organised crimes and criminal acts against women and the elderly, especially in metropolitan cities.”

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