However, disappointed at widening of age net for statutory rape to 18 years

Women groups have welcomed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, but add that they are “deeply disappointed by the widening of the age net for statutory rape to 18 years”. They have expressed concern that this provision will criminalise young boys, “tainting them as rapists for life”.

Expressing her views, lawyer Vrinda Grover said: “The passing of the Bill in both the Houses of Parliament is historic and India has taken one step forward on its journey to justice for women. Yet, even as the Bill itself signals a step forward, the process of its passage has pointed to a deep malaise in the hallowed halls of Parliament.”

“Representatives of women’s rights groups, lawyers and activists from across the country campaigned for decades, and vigorously particularly in the last three months, to reform laws on rape and sexual assault. We, therefore, welcome even more that in such an anti-women environment we have wrested significant gains for women in the Bill,” she added.

Referring to the age of consent, women’s rights activist Farah Naqvi said: “We are worried that this provision will criminalise our young boys, tainting them as rapists for life, when what we need is discussion and education on issues of sexual contact. We ask Parliament to revisit this provision and to amend it. We are disturbed that yet again rape within marriage finds no acknowledgment in the Bill. Also, systemic sexual violence against Dalit and tribal women is not acknowledged as aggravated rape.”

Women groups find it incomprehensible that in a Bill which clarifies that no sanction for prosecution under 197 (1) CrPC is required for public servants charged with sexual offences, a similar clarification regarding 197 (2) CrPC covering Army and para-military is excluded.

“We call upon the Government, all political parties and citizens to join us in continuing this journey to justice and equal rights for women, and vigorously implementing these laws we have fought so long and so hard to get,” Ms. Naqvi added.