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The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, more popularly called the anti-rape bill, is now law. The outrage following the homicidal gang rape in Delhi unleashed events that lent force to thelongstanding demand by the women’s movement for comprehensive reform of laws relating tosexual assault. These demands were bolstered by the recommendations of the high level committee, headed by retired Justice Verma, that called for reform of criminal laws, police reforms, prevention and education interventions to effectively tackle impunity for sexual violence. With the new bill passed by the parliament and signed by the president, the law stands substantially changed. This article takes stock of the ways in which the new amendments re-framed sexual offences in the law, their significance and the challenges that remain. While being far from comprehensive, these changes substantially transform the law relating to sexual offences. A few examples below contextulise the significance.
Madhu Mehra is a lawyer, a founding member and Executive Director of Partners for Law in Development, a resource group on women’s rights in India. Her fields of expertise are: CEDAW and international human rights law; feminist legal perspectives relating to women’s rights in areas of family, culture, sexuality and violence against women. Over the last 20 years, her work has spanned contexts in India, South Asia and the Asia Pacific, in programming, training, research, and policy advocacy. She has engaged with the UN human rights system, through treaty body and special mechanisms, as well as the UPR.