In India, women’s groups are protesting a new ordinance designed to address sexual violence against women. The ordinance resulted from the rape of a 23-year-old woman last year. The woman was gang raped by six males and eventually died from her injuries. This sparked much outrage in India and abroad. A commission was created to determine the best way to address this problem.
However, the government’s response has irked the women’s groups in the country. Many of the complaints are valid. For instance, the Verma Commission, the commission mentioned above, suggested that marital rape receive the same punishment as any other kind of rape. However, the ordinance instead treats marital rape as a lesser form of rape, which in turn receives a lower sentence. The commission also recommended holding higher level officials responsible for the actions of their subordinates. This stemmed from a cases in which a higher ranking police officer ordered his junior officer to sexually torture a woman. The ordinance excludes this.
There are also some ironic complaints from women’s groups. Many people who heard about the gang rape case cried for the death penalty for the men involved. The ordinance allows for the death penalty in extreme cases, however, Verma Commission opposes this. Its opposition is not because the death penalty is an extreme form of punishment, but because of the potential lower conviction rates if a jury decides to acquit rather than execute the accused.
There was also a complaint about the changing of consent laws. In 2012, the age of consent in India was raised from 16-years-old to 18-years-old. This was intended to protect girls (not boys) from abusers, yet the Verma Commissions recommended changing the age of consent back to 16 because the law is being used against boys of different races and religions.