Bill to make sexual assault a gender-neutral offence

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 04, 2012 12:24 hrs

New Delhi: Both men and women could soon be able to invoke the provisions of a criminal law in case of sexual assault, once a bill in this regard is passed by Parliament.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, replacing the word 'rape' by the phrase 'sexual assault' and seeking to widen the scope of the offence, was introduced by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The amendment bill expands the definition so that cases of sexual assault where victims were male would fall under the same law along with cases where victims were women.

At present, the offence is defined under section 375 of the Indian Penal Code as per which a man is said to commit 'rape' in case he has sexual intercourse with a woman against her will.

The bill also carries provisions which makes carrying out of acid attacks a separate offence punishable by a maximum of ten years' in jail. Attempt to do so could send the accused to jail for 5-7 years.

Under the bill, an offender can be jailed for life in cases of sexual assault, irrespective of the victim's gender. The term 'sexual assault' has also been widened to include forced unnatural sex.

The bill lays down strict provisions under which persons below 18 making a complaint will not have to face the accused in court or police stations. It has raised the age of consent from 16 to 18 years.

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