NEW DELHI - India approved a tougher new law to punish sex crimes, including death for repeat rape offenders, after the fatal gang rape of a student in Dec sparked unprecedented protests over the treatment of women in the country. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 or “anti-rape law” puts in place a slew of new provisions and tougher punishments, which include criminalising voyeurism and stalking and making acid attacks and human trafficking specific offences. The legislation is seen as a crucial step towards curbing rising cases of violence against women in the largely patriarchal country, but activists said it was weak and warned that much would depend on enforcement.
“Such legislation has come to India for the first time and the parliament has given its approval. It will create a revolution in the country,” Home Affairs Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told Reuters shortly after lawmakers approved it. Rape is just one of many violations women suffer in India, ranging from female foeticide and dowry murders to acid attacks, trafficking and so-called honour killings. But the savagery of the December 16 assault, where a 23-year-old student was gang-raped for an hour and tortured with an iron rod damaging her internal organs, shook the conscience of many Indians and stirred national debate about gender abuses. Thousands took to the streets across India for days, forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government to constitute a panel to recommend ways to strengthen laws to protect women. The new law incorporates some of the panel’s suggestions.