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Criminal law amendment act,2013 - changes in rape laws

The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 19 March 2013, and by the Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2013, making certain changes from the provisions in the Ordinance. The Bill received Presidential assent on 2 April 2013 and came into force from 3 April 2013.

Changes in law
Section 370 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been substituted with new sections, 370 and 370A which deals with trafficking of person for exploitation. If a person (a) recruits, (b) transports, (c) harbours, (d) transfers, or (e) receives, a person, by using threats, or force, or coercion, or abduction, or fraud, or deception, or by abuse of power, or inducement for exploitation including prostitution, slavery, forced organ removal, etc. will be punished with imprisonment ranging from at least 7 years to imprisonment for the remainder of that person's natural life depending on the number or category of persons trafficked.[16] Employment of a trafficked person will attract penal provision as well.[16]

The most important change that has been made is the change in definition of rape under IPC. Although the Ordinance sought to change the word rape to sexual assault, in the Act the word 'rape' has been retained in Section 375, and was extended to include acts in addition to vaginal penetration.

The definition is broadly worded with acts like penetration of penis into the vagina, urethra, anus or mouth; or any object or any part of body to any extent, into the vagina, urethra or anus of another woman or making another person do so; to apply mouth or touching private parts constitutes the offence of sexual assault. The section has also clarified that penetration means penetration to any extent, and lack of physical resistance is immaterial for constituting an offence.

Except in certain aggravated situations the punishment will be imprisonment not less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine. In aggravated situations, punishment will be rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

A new section, 376A has been added which states that if a person committing the offence of sexual assault, inflicts an injury which causes the death of the person or causes the person to be in a persistent vegetative state, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean the remainder of that person’s natural life, or with death.[17]

In case of gang rape, persons involved regardless of their gender shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years, but which may extend to life and shall pay compensation to the victim which shall be reasonable to meet the medical expenses and rehabilitation of the victim. The age of consent in India has been increased to 18 years, which means any sexual activity irrespective of presence of consent with a woman below the age of 18 will constitute statutory rape.

Certain changes has been introduced in the CrPC and Evidence Act, like the process of recording the statement of the victim has been made more victim friendly and easy but the two critical changes are: 1. the 'character of the victim' is now rendered totally irrelevant, and 2. there is now a presumption of 'no consent' in a case where sexual intercourse is proved and the victim states in the court that she did not consent.

Section 354B – If a man assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked in any public place, he commits an offence under section 354B, which is punishable with imprisonment between three and seven years.

This section deals with a very specific offence and adds to and supplements the provision dealing with the offence of outraging the modesty of a woman.[xvi] This is a welcome provision in view of the fact that many cases have been reported in the news of women being stripped in public as an instrument of punishment mostly in backward areas.

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