Indian activists protest against new rape laws
NEW DELHI (AP) - Scores of demonstrators demanded on Monday that the Indian government repeal a new sexual violence law the Cabinet hurriedly passed last week and replace it with a more comprehensive measure.
Activists said the law, passed by the Cabinet on Friday and signed by the president on Sunday, only followed some of the recommendations of a government panel set up after the fatal gang rape of a woman in New Delhi two months ago. That rape led to protests across India, sparked a debate about the treatment of women and highlighted the inability of law enforcement to protect them.
The new law has increased punishments for rape from the existing seven to 10 years to a maximum of 20 years. It also provides for the death penalty in extreme cases of rape that result in death or leaves the victim in a coma. It has also made voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.
Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said the government decided to bring in the new law through an ordinance - which allowed it to take effect immediately, though it will have to be approved by Parliament within six months - since it viewed changing the law as a priority.