India enacts new, tougher rape law


An Indian protester shouts slogans during a protest against the gang rape and murder of a student in New Delhi in December.


Sajjad Hussain

NEW DELHI, India — India has overhauled its rape laws to introduce new crimes, expand the definition of rape, and toughen up punishments for the perpetrators of sexual violence — instituting long awaited changes brought to the public eye by a series of brutal, highly public gang rapes.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee OK'd the new Anti-Rape Bill on April 3, which will include new punishments for stalking and voyeurism and introduce life sentences and even the death penalty for rape crimes.

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The definition of rape will be expanded, and an absence of physical struggle will no longer translate into consent, notes a BBC rundown of the changes.

Perpetrators of acid attacks — sadly common crimes in India — will be hit with a mandatory 10-year sentence, and victims of sexual violence will be granted the right to self defense, according to the Times of India.

Further, the age of consent for sex in India has now been fixed at age 18.

Public servants who refuse to report rape crimes or commit them themselves will be subjected to especially harsh punishments, in an effort to make it easier for women to report sexual violence crimes.

GlobalPost senior correspondent Jason Overdorf said that women's groups decried the refusal to criminalize marital rape and expressed concern that the death penalty for rapists might result in an increase in cases where assailants murder their victim.

A New York Times piece describes how the lack of women police may hamstring some of the legal provisions.

Jason Overdorf contributed to this report from New Delhi.