Parliament on Thursday passed the anti-rape bill which keeps the age for consensual sex at 18 years and makes voyeurism and stalking punishable offences, with the Rajya Sabha giving its nod to the legislation.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, approved by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, was moved in the Rajya Sabha earlier on Thursday by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.
A resolution moved by Communist Party of India leader D Raja, disapproving the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance which the bill seeks to replace, was rejected by the house.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also present in the house when the bill was voted.
The anti-rape bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 3. The legislation had to be passed by parliament before April 4, when it would have lapsed.
The issue has been in focus after the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi on December 16 last year. She died of grievous injuries 13 days later.
The anti-rape bill has provided for specific punishment for crimes such as acid attack, disrobing and voyeurism, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said on Thursday, adding that the legislation was not against men.
Replying to debate in the Rajya Sabha on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, Shinde said the legislation had several new sections dealing with crimes such as trafficking.
He said the decision to fix the age of consent for sex at 18 was taken after consultation with political parties.
He said the age of consent was 16 in the Indian Penal Code but was raised to 18 in the ordinance promulgated by the government.
Describing the bill as tough and rigid, Shinde said it would have its effect in the coming years.
He said changes in the existing law were necessary for the dignity of women and to increase their sense of security.
The minister said the bill provided for action against police officials for not registering complaint of victims.
Sections dealing with the position of dominance implied political dominance too, he said.
Shinde said men also wanted the bill to be passed for the protection of their mothers and sisters.
"It (the bill) is not against men," he said.
Shinde said there was a wide consensus on passing the bill.