ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Criminal Law ( Amendment) Bill 2012: Sexual Assault as a Gender Neutral Offence

The new Bill proposes to make sexual assault a gender neutral offence. This move and many other flaws makes a more rigourous discussion of the provisions of the Bill an imperitive before it is tabled in Parliament.

A frustration which any person engaging with the process of law reform invariably faces is trying to decipher the meaning of the legislation. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 is no different. For example, there is nothing to guide the reader as to why the offence of marital rape still finds its place on the statute books or why the government sees it fit to make sexual assault gender neutral While we must definitely demand that legislative proposals be accompanied by a detailed discussion on the need for amendments (like the Law Commission of India attempts to do), in the meantime we are forced to respond to the policy shifts which can be gleaned from the proposed amendments.

The requires much more serious examination before it is tabled in Parliament. There are too many gaps which render it a deeply flawed exercise.1 This article does not purport to be a detailed analysis of the provisions of the Bill, but will focus rather on one aspect that has triggered the strongest response, namely, making sexual assault a gender neutral offence. The opposition to even the principle of gender neutrality has been most strongly argued by Flavia Agnes who says that A gender-neutral rape law would open up avenues for inflicting even greater trauma and humiliation to an already marginalised section and hence defeat the very purpose of reform. This premise cannot be introduced on the pretext of safeguarding the rights of other marginalised segments 2.

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