Anti-rape bill


It’s too soon to tell whether the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice’s clearing of the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Bill, 2021, with amendments, is something to celebrate. It paves the way for the death sentence, life imprisonment or chemical castration for those found guilty, and also ensures parliamentary oversight, but such measures have been taken before and our newspapers are still full of stories of people – men, women, children and transgenders – raped literally every day.
It is clear, then, that the laws as they exist, or their application, is not good enough to ensure deterrence of this crime and a lot of people feel comfortable committing them because they know that the law is very unlikely to catch up with them. It’s also something of a concern that the transgender community hasn’t yet been made part of the bill because, according to reports, the law ministry thought that it would create complications due to capacity issues in the healthcare sector.
Who, after all, is responsible for creating capacity for such a vulnerable section of society when it comes to such crimes if not the government itself? Brushing such important issues under the carpet is bound to raise very serious questions which the government does not seem willing to answer right now. It also seems that some of the broader, more important, questions have gone completely unaddressed. It is not so much that the laws are weak as their application is ineffective.
Known and habitual rapists are able to dodge the law repeatedly because they know just what to do to get the kind of police report recorded that lets them off the hook for lack of evidence, etc. Therefore curbing rape, which is already much higher in this country than most others in this world, will require a lot more than passing harsher punishments through the House. Necessary reforms will have to start from the police which is where the first reports are filed which dictate the direction of the eventual court cases. Only later will special courts and harsh punishments really come into play in the way they are intended to. Surely it will be time to be relieved when the government gives these problems some thought.