Anti-rape bill passed in Lok Sabha
New Delhi, Mar 19 : The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the anti-rape law bill calling for tougher punishment for sexual offences on women but several key lawmakers were absent when the bill was passed and some made insensitive comments, exposing the attitude of MPs towards the issue despite lip services to women safety after the fatal gang rape of a paramedical student on a Delhi bus.
Among the absentees were even Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi even though there was a debate of nearly seven hours.
Congress also accepted the age of consent for sex at 18 as demanded by Opposition and made the first offence of stalking as bailable.
The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill also provides for the death penalty for extreme cases of rape while the jail term for other rapes was made 20 years.
Crimes like acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism and the trafficking of women were made punishable under criminal law.
However, with parliament members laughing at an alleged sexist remark by Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav while discussing stalking, many questioned the real attitude of MPs on the issue of crime against women.
"Who amongst us have not followed girls?" said Yadav in the Lok Sabha during the discussion on the bill and the issue of stalking.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde tabled the anti-rape bill in Lok Sabha earlier.
While the age of consent for consensual sex was a sticking point between various groups till the ruling party accepted the opposition argument for keeping it at 18, Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar earlier said the government would incorporate the suggestions of the other parties and opposition and bring the bill for passage.
An all-party meeting a day ago agreed to keep the age of consent at 18 for consensual sex.
Last week, the Group of Ministers (GoM) working on a draft of an anti-rape bill had agreed on the handful of contentious provisions that have been stalling the law.
Flaying the law enforcers and calling for police reforms, the Justice Verma Committee tasked by the government to suggest stringent laws against sexual violence submitted its "path-breaking" recommendations on Jan 23 to the Home Ministry, calling for enhancement of punishment to life sentence for the crime while stopping short of awarding death penalty.
The three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India J S Verma submitted its report to the government a month after it was formed following a national outrage over the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old medical student on a Delhi bus on Dec 16 and her subsequent death from injuries.