April 5, 2010

Hindustan Times

New draft rape law has more teeth, wider scope

The word ‘rape’ could go out of the Indian Penal Code, replaced by a more inclusive ‘sexual assault’ that would place non-consensual oral or anal sex at par with forcible sexual intercourse under a comprehensive review of rape laws finalised by a panel at the home ministry.
The panel has recommended raising prison terms for various sexual offences. To protect the victim, it has proposed barring the accused’s counsel from raising questions about the victim’s character or antecedents during court proceedings.
It also requires the court to ensure the victim is not confronted by the accused during cross-examination.
The draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2010 was finalised by a high-powered committee headed by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai recently.
The panel has, however, steered clear of Section 377 that deals with “unnatural sex” and was invoked against homosexuals till the Delhi High Court came to their rescue.
Home ministry spokesman Onkar Kedia said the draft had been made public to seek responses from civil society and state governments.
The law commission had given its recommendations on reviewing rape laws nearly a decade back, in 2000.
In a fresh clause to protect minors, the Pillai panel not only changed the definition of minors to 18 years — rather than 15 and 16 years in the penal code — but also introduced the concept of sexual abuse of minors.
This provision would treat a man, or a woman — who invites, counsels, incites or exhibits pornography to a minor to be able to touch any part of the minor’s body — as a sexual offender and be liable for a 10-year jail term.
The proposed provisions raise the jail term for non-consensual sex by a man with his wife to a minimum of two years and a maximum of seven years, up from the upper limit of two years

Hindustan Times

Standard norms for child welfare committees

To counter increasing crimes against children in the state, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been issued by the government to ensure effective implementation of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
According to the 2009-10 economic survey released by the government last week, Maharashtra featured second in the country for crimes against children. The state also ranked third in crimes against women.
The CWC, an integral part of remand homes helping rehabilitation of children in need of care and protection, has the powers to compel police officer to investigate a cognisable or non-cognisable offense. As per the rules, the CWC has powers to summon and order the police to record the statement of the child as a complaint.
There are two CWCs in Mumbai - one at Dongri and the other at Mankhurd. In rest of Maharashtra there are 33 CWCs, with one CWC in each district.
The need for issuing a SOP was felt due to absence of a standard procedure in the 35 CWCs in the state. The SOP simplifies operations of different sections of the Acts and Rules enacted for protection of children.
Members of the CWC have faced practical difficulties in implementation of the SOP.
Santosh Shinde, a child rights activist and a member of CWC at Dongri, said that the biggest hurdle implementation of the SOP was insufficient manpower. Rules say that there should be a follow up of every rescued child after rehabilitation in a shelter home or with a family.
“This has to be done by probation officers appointed. There are no independent probation officers appointed and existing officers are given additional charge. As a result they cannot do justice to this,” said Shinde.
Besides, there are no special budgetary provisions for protection of children.
“The funds come from different departments such as children and women welfare and labour department and are not sufficient,” added Shinde.

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