Sweeping Anti-Rape Reforms

It seems like the government is set to pass some of the most sweeping reforms to anti-rape laws—the Law Minister has confirmed that the parliament will soon promulgate an ordinance to introduce strict punishments for rapists and sex offenders including the death penalty and chemical castration. Several other important amendments are also being made, including expanding the definition of rape and prohibiting the controversial “two-finger” test.

The events of the previous year had made some legislative change absolutely necessary. Rape incident after rape incident had alarmed the public, with the lack of action and the victim-blaming attitude of some security officials generating negative attention for the government.

Some of the proposed provisions could go a long way in changing the way that rape is perceived in the country. More helpful than the introduction of the death penalty and castration, is the expansion of the definition of rape, which was severely lacking in previous laws. The new definition has been expanded to make the victim gender-neutral and has included other acts in addition to intercourse that constitute rape. This change is crucial—it now allows male children and members of the transgender community and other gender minorities to seek refuge under this law. However, there are some disturbing aspects of the legislation as well—it seems the age of consent has been needlessly lowered from sixteen to thirteen, a change which does not make sense considering the prevalence of sexual crimes against children and the incidents of child brides.

Nevertheless, the amendments introduced are a step in the right direction and hold great impact—it is a pity then that the government is including them in an ordinance rather than passing it as a bill in parliament, meaning that it will soon lapse. There is no political sense to it—this is an issue all parties are on board with. For laws like these to serve as a deterrent to a horrific crime, they need to be certain and set in stone—an ordinance is not the best way.

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