A bill providing for stringent punishment for crimes against women, including rape, and also defining acid attack, stalking and voyeurism as criminal offences, was today cleared by the Union Cabinet.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 also lowers the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years and makes 'rape' as a gender-specific offence under which men only can be charged for it.
The bill, brought against the backdrop of the December 16 Delhi gangrape, provides for minimum jail term of 20 years for rape which may be extended to 'natural life' of the convict in jail.
There is also provision for death sentence if the victim dies or is left in a 'persistent vegetative state'.
Stalking, voyeurism have been defined as criminal offences in the bill. Sustained stalking will be a non-bailable offence.
The bill had divided the Cabinet at its special meeting on Tuesday and was referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM) to sort out differences on various aspects of the proposed law.
The GoM finalised the draft yesterday amidst the government's keenness to expedite the bill that will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 3.
The bill uses the term 'rape' which will be gender- specific, in contrast to the gender-neutral 'sexual assault' as proposed in the ordinance.
The bill also lowers the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years. In the ordinance, it was 18 years.
The measure, on the lines of the ordinance, has not touched on the issue of making marital rape a separate offence.