7.40 pm The Bill has been passed. We are now back to zero hour.
7.30 pm: Discussion over stalking
Sushma Swaraj supports amendment that the first instance of stalking should also be made non-bailable offence even in the first instance. She gives the example of Geetika case.
The amendment has been proposed by Tathagata Satapathy.
Home Minister Shinde replies stating, “In the all party meet yesterday, stalking was non-bailable in both instances.”
The amendment does not hold.
7. 25 pm Vote on child trafficking amendment
Noes have it.
7. 00 pm: Division in the House over a proposed amendment on punishment for acid attacks.
The issue will now be put to vote. The member B Mahtab demands life imprisonment for acid attacks. The Noes have it: 105 against while 62 have voted for the proposed amendment.
But the fighting continues. Technical error it seems and voting will take place again. Meira Kumar says, ” Don’t shout.” Taking a break from “baith jaayi.”
Some confusion, Kumar says the decision is subject to review. Ok, the amendment is NOT passed.
6.50 pm: Home Minister Shinde is now speaking
He goes back to the Delhi gangrape incident. ” In 2012 too, we had proposed a law against rape which had a lot of provisions that the Verma Committee had proposed,” he says.
He’s now talking about voyeurism and stalking in colleges. “Galti ho sakti, pehle baar chalo, dosri baar we will give punishment, “ he says.
Talking about the age of consent now. “We made it 16 only because some groups demanded it. We had kept it at 18 in the ordinance,” says Shinde.
Shinde now showing how the government has increased punishment time in various sections of the Bill. “Specially in 168 A, we have ensured that a police officer who does not register FIR is also punished,” he says.
On disrobing: “We have made disrobing in public and private punishable.”
Sharad Yadav brings up the question of inter-caste marriages and protecting such couples. Shinde’s response is classic, “Yeh bilkul sahi baat. Mera bhi inter caste shaadi, shaayad aap ki bhi ho is liya aap itna interest le rahi hai.”
On all party meeting: Some parties had expressed discontent at not being invited to the all party meet. The Home Minister’s response: We had called almost everyone. Now if we didn’t called 3-4 other people, what is the big deal. We will call them next time, he assures.
6.47 pm: Meena Singh from JD-U Bihar on why we need to stop looking at nonsensical things like women’s dressing.
She’s making a valid point. She asks, “When a rural woman is raped, what provocative clothing is she wearing? We need to change our thinking not our clothing.” Hear, hear.
“We need to note that the law is not keep men away from women, but rather to protect women,” she says.
6.30 pm: Asaduddin Owaisi is speaking now. He rakes up the issue of AFSPA and why blackmailing is not mentioned in the bill.
Owaisi asks pointing to a provision in the bill, asking, “How can stalking be reasonable and justified? Why is blackmailing not being mentioned in the bill? Girls are blackmailed in this age of technology with CDs being distributed of them. ”
Owaisi says that repeat sexual offenders should be given death sentence. He also questions Shinde on why Verma Committee recommendation over AFSPA was ignored.
And of course, the final solution against crimes against women is mentioned. “Why is moral science not being taught in school?” asks Owaisi.
6.23 pm: Now, Tagore and the dummy’s guide to Hindi in Bengali, thanks to TMC MP Satabdi Roy
First things first, Satabdi Roy was one of the stalwarts Bengal was left with in its decades-long post Satyajit Ray days. Of the several dozens of films she has acted in, the most representative would be one called Srimati Bhoyonkori (which translated and diluted into English would read Mrs Terrifying). So, if her speech sounds like she is on badly scripted stage show, don’t blame her much.
In true Bengali sentimental style, she narrates the great fish test for discrimination in an Indian household. “When there are two pieces of fish for lunch, so many times it is the boy who is given the bigger piece of fish. Why? Why will not the girl get the bigger piece?” she asks, very soulfully.
Which was preceded by, who else but quotes from Tagore and concluded by what seemed like a line lifted out of a 90s Tollywood film – something that talked about touching the sky. Which probably never saw the light of the day.
6.18 pm: Kameshwar Baitha from JMM Jharkhand raises the issue of tribal girls, dalit girls who are kidnapped and sold in brothels in urban cities.
“Is there a law to stop this?”, he asks. “Incidents of rape take place everyday in villages, rural areas, in tribal areas. Tribal culture is being destroyed, their bodies are being exploited. The law to deal with such issues should be really tough.”
6.15 pm: “Will young girls wear saris and not frocks?”
MP Jayaprada lashes out at the earlier jibe at her. “What will so many laws do if the mindset of our country is not changed? Right now someone spoke about clothes… so what will young girls do? Wear saris and not skirts and frocks?” she says.
6.00 pm: Incidents of incest should be addressed, says Priya Dutt
MP Priya Dutt underlines the need to address incest. “Most of the children who are abused are victimised by people known to them, by members of their family. The law has to be made in a way children are protected against such abuse,” says Dutt.
5.40 pm: For every Sharad Yadav, there is a Lalu Prasad Yadav
Lalu Yadav takes it upon himself to educate the ever-romantic Sharad Yadav on the realities on the Indian backlands. He says that the Bill is not against the average Road Romeo, it is against the ‘habitual ghume wala’. Anti-rape Bill nor not, at least the stalker just got a new definition, desi style.
And all those down-with-American Idol trolls, Lalu has news for you. “The Sun Temple in Konark is full of sculptures of naked women and men. Khajuraho is full of such images. What will you do about them? Cover them up all?”
He then goes after Asaram Bapu. “What do you do when saints in the country are like this. This saint said that the girl should have begged with the rapists and called them brothers to escape the assault!”
*Run for cover ye people, the cowboy’s in the House!*
5.30pm: ‘Government is encouraging young people to have sex’
“Why did the government lower the age for consensual sex? So that old men from abroad can come from other countries, pay poor families some money and have sex with their young daughter? Are they legitimizing such practices?” says Harsimrat Kaur Badal, MP from the Akali Dal.
Kaur also imagined a grim future for the country, were it to follow the ‘western’ model of civilisation. “There will be more teenage pregnancies, more cases of HIV, more cases of cervical cancer. Does the government want all that to happen to our girls?” she asks.
A mother of two girls and a boy, the Bill is also of concern to her from the male point of view. “What does the government mean by ‘watch’ or ‘spy’? How can you penalise someone on those grounds. The Bill has to be reworded,” she demands.
The villain again? The West.
5.05pm: ‘Delhi is the capital of criminals, not only the politicians’
In a rare moment of reflection or a metaphorical slip of grammar, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta spells out the country’s worst kept secret. “Delhi is the capital of criminals, not only the politicians,” he says.
He adds that the anti-rape ordinance was not something that the government envisaged, but something they were compelled to do after the ‘youthful’ protests in New Delhi.
“The woman has become a marketable commodity. We have to safeguard the women economically and socially. Not by Mr Shinde passing a bill in the Lok Sabha,” said Dasgupta.
5.05pm: Thank god for Surpiya Sule…
Hadn’t it been for NCP MP Supriya Sule, you could have mistaken the Lok Sabha today— for a poetry slam — of a weird kind, of course.
In her address she points out that it is rather unfortunate to see such misogyny and gender bias among her colleagues. “While you snigger and laugh over Sheila Ki Jawaani, I want to remind you that the whole nation is watching us hoping this law will make their daughters safe in the country. Once while I was on a flight, a man walked up to me and said you have made the Delhi gangrape issue into such a joke. Only when something like this happens to one of your politicians’ daughters, will you understand our fears. This is how deeply the country grudges us,” she says.
4.35pm: While LS members test their oratory skills, BJD MP Pinaki Mishra says there have been 450 rapes since 16 December
While the House was busy cracking Comedy Circus jokes, displaying their deep knowledge of the Indian shastras and lamenting how the country no more has time to sit and reflect on the moral universe created by the Ramayana and Mahabharata – BJD MP Mishra points out there have been 450 cases of rapes in India in the past four months. Several of them were gangrapes, he said. This despite the huge public uproar following the December 16 gangrape.
However, if you were thinking that it would remind the House that the Lok Sabha was not hosting a high school debate on Indian morality, but a discussion on a Bill that will affect more than half of the country’s population directly, nothing like that happened.
Anand Gangaram Geete of the Shiv Sena first announced that women are the safest in Mumbai and Shiv Sena should get credit for it. “Lot of people made fun of us when we opposed Valentine’s Day. But now everyone agrees that it is Westernisation of our culture which is to blame for the rising number of rapes in the country. We have to accept it,” says Geete.
Now I’m convinced it is Sidney Sheldon and not Chetan Bhagat, who is the highest selling author in India!
4.10pm: Why Sharad Yadav is the real rockstar
This is one man Yash Chopra would have been proud of. Sharad Yadav of JD(U) continues his argument for ‘mohabbat’ or love and against provisions of the new anti-rape ordinance. “I still think that making stalking to voyeurism a punishable offence is too harsh and wrong. Peecha karne ke liye, taakne jhaakne ke liye, yeh bahut badi saza hai (It’s too harsh a punishment for stalking or following people),” says Sharad Yadav.
“When you watch Sheila ki jawaani or Munni with her Zandu Balm what goes on in your mind…?” Yadav says teasingly, adding, “So what, we are all men after all!”
He trashed the provision as ‘faaltu’ and said instead of such laws the government should make sure that people who marry for love, who get into inter caste marriages, are given government protection and government jobs.
“Now that is doing great service to the youth of India. We have all followed women around in youth. And women don’t talk to men first, we men have to follow them and get them to talk. So, now will you put all young men in love in jails? There aren’t enough jails too here,” the wise man points out.
The only thing missing here? Akshay Kumar’s Chura Ke Dil Mera, Goriya Chali playing in the background, I guess.
3.45pm: And here comes the real culprit – what women wear!
It’s almost a good thing that Lok Sabha TV isn’t on our favourites list usually. Because, if you were to see and hear who runs our country, who takes decisions, who contests them, you would probably feel safer in the Sunderbans than in your own homes.
Shailendra Kumar of Samajwadi Party concludes his rather convoluted speech by blaming mobile phones, internet and yes, ‘pehnawa’ – clothes women wear.
“Ajkal desh mein pehnawa itna galat ho gaya hai, ki kya bolun (These days the sense of dressing has become so wrong, what to say)?” says Kumar. And he doesn’t just stop at that. He turns at Jayaprada to take a dig at her and says in a wily tone, “Jayaprada ji, I have seen you films. I watch them…,” leaving a broad hint at the clothes that the actor has worn in her films.
Strangely enough, the House doesn’t protest. The same house which was adjourned because one politician called another a ‘dacoit’.
Jayaprada protests feebly, alone, while Kumar growls back saying,”You know what I don’t even watch those films or TV. I watch just news.”
Just in case you have forgotten by now, these people here are discussing a Bill that hopes to make women in India safe and secured against abuse.
3.15pm: First the West, now deodorant and condom ads, reality shows – sexual assault in India have myriad social roots
Sumitra Mahajan, BJP MP, rips apart popular television as what inspires deviant sexual behaviour. “It is okay to showcase a child’s talents. But look at these reality shows? What kind of love songs are these children sing on TV? What kind of love songs ten-year-old girls and 13-year-old boys are dancing to? The kind of expressions that these people have on their faces is appalling. These dirty spray ads, condom ads, they put such negative thoughts in people’s minds. This should be looked into,” says Mahajan.
Trying to underline the importance of a culture cleansing, Mahajan tells the LS and Lalu Prasad Yadav that it is human beings who have sex on their minds all year round. “Animals and birds have a mating season. Unlike human beings, they don’t have just one thing on their mind all year round Lalu ji,” she points out emphatically. Lalu nods. Time to trash the TV people and take a trip back to the zoo!
More poetry in the house! And a strong caveat against a provision to turn marital rape into a criminal offence. “Anyway people these days get divorced over insignificant issues. Marital rape shouldn’t be made into a criminal offence. It will destroy Indian families. Things like these should be sorted out within the family or by counselling. There is no need for a law. You know the Indian family, it has a binding effect on the society,” says Mahajan.
And where do all the wife beaters, the girl child killers the paedophiles come from? Surely not the great Indian family. Azkaban must be hidden somewhere in the Bay of Bengal!
2.45pm: MP Bhola Singh turns LS discussion on anti-rape Bill into a Ramanand Sagar devotional serial
While MP Bhola Singh just stopped short of blaming McDonald’s for rapes in India (he blamed all the ills in Indian society on ‘Western’ influence, the Western culture which is all about the body as opposed to ours, which is all about the spirit), INC MP Sandeep Dikshit, comes as a foil. He managed to bring the Lok Sabha back to reality from a Ramanand Sagar soap, by underlining the importance of the ordinance.
Prior to that Singh had gone to great lengths to narrate hitherto unheard of stories, apparently from the Ramayana, to define the role and position of women in the Indian society.
He also said India is a not a country, she is a ‘Maa’. In Amitabh Bachchan language – very Mere-Paas-Maa-ish. Anymore doubts about Deewar being the biggest blockbuster the country has ever seen?
Dikshit urges that the law should make sure that women don’t feel insecure and humiliated while lodging complaints or while being cross examined.
He also lauded the government’s efforts to bring people in positions of authority like the police, Army, bureacracy, under the ambit of the law.
Dikshit, however, has an answer for Sharad Yadav who had wondered aloud in the all-party meet yesterday that is a man doesn’t stalk a girl, how will young people fall in love? “In our student days, stalking was not considered an offence. Several of my own friends used to follow girls around in colleges. While some of them meant no harm, a lot of girls used to get scared and stopped coming to college and refused to complete their education,” he said.
2.15pm: Shinde thanks political parties, women’s organisations, government, Justice Verma and moves the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013 in LS
Shinde moved the Bill in Lok Sabha exhorting the members to help the Bill ‘see the light of the day’ and pass it quickly. “The nation awaits the outcome of the debates around this Bill. Let us rise to the occasion and I urge the members of the House deliberate and discuss the matter with all seriousness and pass the bill quickly,” said Shinde.
In tune with most other insipid political dialogues around the gangrape and death of the Delhi girl, Shinde lauded her ‘sacrifice’ and said that passing the Bill quickly will be equivalent to ‘honouring’ her. Though one wonders how such empty symbolism will be of any consolation to a dead girl or her family, Shinde sticks to the Indian political niceties while moving the Bill.
He then outlines the three important revisions to the old law. They are the following:
- Several aggressive sexual acts have been brought under the ambit of rape, he said. While this might seem extremely ironical, stalking, voyeurism, trafficking, disrobing a woman using force at home, have been included in the IPC as ‘new’ offences.
-He mentioned that a rape convict can be sentenced up to 20 years or even the rest of his life. In case of death of a victim, the accused can be sentenced to death.
-”We are trying to make the process of collection of evidence, women-friendly. We will make sure that cross examination doesn’t hurt the dignity of a woman. Medical aid, compensation and other such ancillary measures have been included in the new ordinance,” said Shinde.
12.15pm: Shinde introduces The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 in LS
Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde introduced the revised anti-rape ordinance in the Lok Sabha amid sloganeering demanding the resignation of Veerappa Moily (and not Beni Prasad Verma)!
However, as the Sri Lanka issue came up and parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath tried hard to pacify the members by promising a ‘discussion’, the Speaker adjourned the session till 2pm.
11.50am: Must get anti-rape law bill passed by 22 March, says Sonia
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has emphasised the need to get the revised anti-rape Bill be passed before 22 March. Speaking at the CPP meet, Gandhi said, “We must get the anti-rape Bill passed by both Houses of Parliament before 22 March.”
10.10 am: Anti-rape law to be finally tabled in Lok Sabha
While one might have assumed that the overwhelming public outrage over the incident of the Delhi gangrape would prompt Parliament to quickly revise and approve the anti sexual assault law, the same old political wrestling over it seems to have stalled the process in its course.
While activists accuse the government of ignoring the most important recommendations of the Justice Verma report, there has been a lot political bickering over the age of consent (which was lowered to 16 and then changed back to 18), the issue of rape being still considered a gender specific crime, and the provisions against eve-teasing and stalking.
The Bill will be presented in the Lok Sabha today and even the Opposition is in favour of it being passed without delay.
Following are the key takeaways from the issue so far:
- The bill provides for severe punishment for cases of sexual offence against women which includes rape and acid attacks.
- The age of consent was initially lowered to 16 years and after a furor over it, changed back to 18 years. The BJP was one of the key voices to protest against the lowering of the age of consent.
- Stalking, eve-teasing and voyeurism have been named as non-bailable offences. Offenders convicted in such cases could be jailed for three to seven years. However, the Samajwadi Party refused to back the Bill saying the same could be used to harass and frame innocent people. Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath assured the house that measures will be taken to provide safeguards against such manipulations, but did not elaborate what they are.
- The Bill has steered clear of addressing marital rape and calling it a criminal offence – another bone of contention with women’s rights activists.
- The Union Cabinet has approved the revised anti-rape bill after recommendations were made in an all-party meeting held in New Delhi on Monday.
- The ordinance, which was promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on 3 February, has to be approved by Parliament within six weeks from the date of its promulgation.