New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Anti-rape Bill which keeps the age for consensual sex at 18 years and makes voyeurism and stalking punishable offences. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, was tabled in the House by Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde a day after the cabinet approved its draft. The House debated it during the day.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013, brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gang-rape, also makes it clear that the age of consent for sex would be 18 years, which was a sticking point with political parties.

"I wish to state that we are enacting the strict law to act as a deterrent," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said, replying to a nearly six-hour debate on the Bill. The Bill seeks to replace an Ordinance promulgated on February 3, which will expire on April 4. It seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The Bill was passed after all amendments moved by opposition and one by UPA constituent NCP for a life-term for perpetrators of acid attacks were defeated. "Time has come to send out a loud, clear and deterrent signal that the society will not tolerate such errant behaviour," he said, underlining that the Bill was being brought to plug loopholes in the law.

With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against rapes and gang-rapes, the Bill states that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of that person's natural life and with a fine.

It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes. The Bill, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail term.


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