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Urgent review of rape laws underway

Condition of assault victim 'deteriorating'

Swati Deb, New Delhi

December 27, 2012

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Mass protests demanding stricter punishment for rapists has led the federal government to form a three-member committee to review rape laws, following the gang rape of a medical student in a moving bus in New Delhi on December 16.

The committee, which has invited suggestions from the public through a public notice, will submit its report next month. At present, a person accused of rape is sentenced to a minimum seven years in jail.

The 23-year-old rape victim whose assault led to public outrage and violent protests was flown last night to Singapore for treatment. Her condition is reportedly deteriorating.

"In India, the fear of law is often minimal, especially so when it comes to crimes against women," said Maya Singh of the Bharatiya Janata (Indian People’s) Party.

James Veliath, a social activist, told that the general belief among wrongdoers is that their influence and money can allow them to get away with all sorts of crimes against women, including rape.

Federal finance minister P. Chidambaram yesterday admitted that the government is not fully prepared to deal with "the new phenomenon of mass protests.”

Following the gang rape incident and subsequent outcry, Madhya Pradesh state has decided to impound arms, confiscate driving licenses and passports, and deny government jobs to those indulging in crimes against women.

The National Crime Records Bureau of the federal Home Ministry says that the number of rape cases registered in India increased from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011, far greater than the increase in murder cases.

Social activists say sex education could be one of the many ways to deal with the menace in India.

However, the "UNICEF module of sex education tried for about a decade in states of Kerala and Maharashtra was opposed and discarded," said Veliath.

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