India Enacts Harsher Punishments for Sexual Assault
Over the weekend, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and the Union Cabinet approved new provisions to the Indian Penal Code that create harsher punishments for sexual assault and rape. The laws went into immediate effect when President Mukherjee's signed them on Sunday, but must be ratified by Parliament.
With the new provisions, the death penalty could be sought in rape cases where a woman is left in a vegetative state, whereas before the death penalty could only be applied when a woman died from her injuries. In addition, the new provisions tackle other forms of sexual assault, such as voyeurism, stalking, and groping, and provides tougher punishments for offenses that had previously carried little to no weight. Human trafficking is also criminalized under the new laws, which could impact widespread child labor practices in India.
While many are applauding the new ordinances, some women's right activists believe that the new laws don't go far enough. For example, under the new laws it is still legal for a husband to rape his wife and service members are protected under a special law that gives them impunity.
Public outrage over a gang-rape that left a woman dead and garnered international attention spurred the President and Cabinet to approve the laws even though Parliament was in recess. On December 16th, the 23-year-old medical student and her male partner were attacked while riding a bus in New Delhi. Both were severely beaten. The woman was raped repeatedly for nearly an hour before a metal rod was pushed inside her, critically damaging her internal organs. She was transferred to a hospital in Singapore and required multiple surgeries for head and intestinal injuries. She died as a result of her injuries two weeks later. Five men who allegedly attacked her are currently being tried in a special fast-track court. A sixth was determined to be a minor and will be tried separately in juvenile court.
Media Resources: Times of India 2/4/2013; Wall Street Journal 2/3/2013; Washington Post 2/3/2013; Feminist Newswire 1/28/2013, 1/24/2013
1/23/2015 #HeForShe Campaign Launches Pilot Effort Aimed at Institutional Equality - The United Nations' gender equality campaign #HeForShe has launched a new program called IMPACT 10X10X10.
United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, together with UN Women Executive DirectorPhumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, introduced the one-year pilot effort aimed at encouraging corporations, universities, and governments to play an active role in enhancing women's empowerment and equality in Davos, Switzerland today at the World Economic Forum.
"Women need to be equal participants in our homes, societies, in our governments, and in our workplaces," Watson said.
First introduced in September, HeForShe is a solidarity movement that calls on men and boys to confront gender inequalities that face women and girls globally. . . .
1/22/2015 BREAKING: House to Vote on Abortion Coverage Ban - After they were forced to scrap plans for a 20-week abortion ban, House Republican leaders decided late last night to instead ram through a vote today on a different extreme anti-abortion bill.
House Republicans are now pushing HR 7, a bill promoted as a ban on federal funding of abortion that would actually prevent women from using their own money to purchase health insurance that includes abortion care. . . .