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Highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill and the Ordinance amend the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Evidence Act. 
  • The amendments proposed seek to replace the offence of rape with sexual assault which has a wider definition.   
  • The Bill and the Ordinance protect the victim by penalising public servants who fail to record FIRs relating to sexual offences.  They also require the victims to be provided with legal and medical assistance.
  • The Bill specifies a separate offence for acid attack.  The Ordinance provides for other new offences as well, such as stalking, voyeurism, assault to disrobe a woman and sexual harassment.
  • The Ordinance prescribes higher punishments for sexual assault resulting in death or persistent vegetative state, gang sexual assault and repeat offenders.
  • The Bill and the Ordinance increase the punishment for sexual assault upon a judicially separated wife.  The Ordinance requires the court to be prima facie satisfied of the offence before it takes cognizance.
  • The Bill and the Ordinance increase the consent age from 16 to 18 years.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • Under the Ordinance, penalties for certain offences are inconsistent.  For instance, minimum punishment for gang assault by private persons is 20 years, and for gang assault by a police officer is 10 years.
  • The Ordinance penalises certain acts which are also punishable under special laws such as SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Punishments under the Ordinance are higher than under these laws.
  • The Ordinance specifies the same punishment for penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assault.  It does not provide a gradation of penalties on the basis of the gravity of the offence.
  • The Bill and the Ordinance exempts un-consented penetration or touching of private parts for medical purposes from punishment.
  • Age of consent has been increased from 16 to 18 years.  There is a divergent view among various commissions on the age of consent.
  • Marital sexual assault upon a woman is not an offence.  This is at variance with the recommendation of certain commissions.

Read the complete analysis here