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The Half-hearted Anti-rape Bill

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  • karmayog - tanya
    http://tehelka.com/the-half-hearted-bill/ The Half-hearted Bill Harini Calamur March 20, 2013 And it comes to pass. The Anti-rape Bill aka the Criminal Law
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 21, 2013
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      http://tehelka.com/the-half-hearted-bill/

      The Half-hearted Bill

      Harini Calamur
      March 20, 2013

      And it comes to pass. The Anti-rape Bill aka the Criminal Law (Amendment)
      Bill 2013 was passed this evening in Parliament by a voice vote. A total of
      168 Members of Parliament (out of house strength of 545 MPs), who bothered
      to be present, voted to give India a law that is tough on rape and sexual
      assault. It replaces the Ordinance that was promulgated by the President
      earlier this year. Stalking and voyeurism are crimes, longer jail sentences
      for convicted rapists (20 years to natural life, and in the rarest of rare
      cases, death), there are longer sentences for acid attacks (10 years), the
      age of consent has been raised to 18; disrobing a woman (against her will)
      is now a criminal offence; and policemen will be charged if they refuse to
      file FIRs. All in all, while there are many areas that still need to be
      addressed, this is a start. At least the Government and Parliament have
      recognised that women's safety is a major issue and that there needs to be
      deterrence against sexual violence that has become increasingly commonplace.

      In January, when protestors took to the streets in Delhi to express their
      acute displeasure at the lack of basic safety for women, politicians of all
      hues and shades promised to do something. When the time came to do
      something - as basic as be present for a discussion and vote on this Bill -
      just under a third of them turned up to debate and vote. Amongst those
      absent was the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

      At times it is difficult to tell what is worse, Members of Parliament
      staying away from debate or those turning up to work. It is evident that
      unlike the first Parliament where there were towering giants, who exerted
      moral authority, this Parliament has political dwarves, who will not know
      morality if they tripped on it. Many justify the most absurd sexism by
      saying they represent the people's biases. Lalu Prasad Yadav, for example,
      in a serious debate to curtail rape, pondered on the proximity of the sexes
      in big cities. He observed the culture of hugging members of the opposite
      sex, "Hum Bihar ke logon mein, hummein, himmat nahi hoti hai kisi mahila se
      haath milane ke liye" (we from Bihar, including me, don't have the courage
      to shake a woman's hand). Obviously, neither rape nor sexual assault
      involves the shaking of hands and there are enough people, in Bihar, who may
      not shake hands - but definitely rape. And Lalu Yadav was not the only one
      attacking modernity. Putting the onus of rape on what is termed 'modernity'
      is the easiest thing to do. Flog modernity, insist 'our' culture has no
      rape, and blame clothes, mobiles and other things as encouraging violence
      against women.

      Sharad Yadav of JD (U) (again from Bihar) had various issues with certain
      provisions of the Bill, especially those that dealt with stalking and
      voyeurism. According to him, all men stalk and that stalking is a part and
      parcel of the courtship process. His fear was that a strong anti-stalking
      law would be at odds with romancing. And, while Mr Yadav was describing as
      "natural' the process of stalking, our esteemed Home Minister Sushil Kumar
      Shinde was grinning from ear to ear in appreciation. Other Parliamentarians
      were guffawing their appreciation. It was like eavesdropping on boys' hostel
      mess, where teenagers are cracking jokes about women and laughing about it.
      It makes one wonder, how the women in the House feel about this entirely
      sexist setup that they work in.

      Women MP's such as Meena Pal of JD (U) pointed out that 'revealing' women's
      clothing is not the cause of rape, and women who are fully clothed are also
      subjected to rape. But, in a house dominated by dinosaurs dependent on vote
      banks, sensible voices get drowned out by the sheer silliness of
      grandstanding leaders. It is almost as though they are auditioning for
      Comedy Central, rather than debating in Parliament.

      There is a problem in India. And that problem is in the way Indians see
      women. The best laws (and this is not the best law) are not going to help
      unless attitudes towards women start changing. That change begins at home,
      in how mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are treated. It begins outside
      in how you treat classmates, strangers, other women. That change begins by
      not blaming Honey Singh or Item Numbers, clothing or television for the
      attitudes towards women. It begins by admitting that there is a problem. And
      the problem is that Indians, especially Indian leaders, make too many
      excuses for rapists. 'She was raped because adults hug each other; she was
      raped because of the clothes she wore; she was raped because children as
      young as 14 are dancing to item numbers' - these were part of the dialogue
      in Parliament today. There was not one person who stood up to say 'She was
      raped because she was a woman. And, the man thought it was ok to rape her'.
      This casualness with which men rape needs to be broken, and that can only
      happen if apologists for rapists stop making excuses for criminals.
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