Path-breaking laws: Sexual assault gets wider definition

FOR victims of molestation, sexual assault and acid attacks, fresh laws are being approved under the much awaited Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012 to extend an umbrella of protection. Hopefully, the sad saga of Ruchika Girhorta’s life will never be repeated again. The Bill is supposed to take care of the changing nature of sexual violence – against both men and women and also minors. To begin with, substitution of the word ‘sexual assault’ for ‘rape’ will take care of men who become victims of sexual assault. To protect vulnerable inmates of orphanages and reform homes like ‘Apna Ghar’ against abuse for the first time the term ‘aggravated sexual assault’ is incorporated to punish the managers or caretakers of children’s homes, who become party to their abuse.

For victims of molestation and acid attacks, in the absence of separate laws to deal with these crimes, the culprits used to get away by a mere two years of imprisonment, which did not work as a deterrent for others. The Union Cabinet is likely to discuss an amendment to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that will recognise acid throwing as a separate punishable offence. A new section called 326-A is proposed to cover injury, hurt, burns and disfigurement of any body part of a person by acid and make it punishable with at least 10 years imprisonment and Rs10 lakh fine.

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