March 21, 2013
AITC Chief Whip in RS Derek O`Brien on Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill
`Beta Hua, Beta Hua, Beta Hua `A Boy is born, a boy is born, a boy is born.` This is the 2nd of July, 1972. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi have signed the Shimla Accord. And, a message has to be sent on telex to Delhi. So, the message`s code is ` Beta Hua, Beta Hua, Beta Hua ` if the Agreement is signed successfully; if, by chance, the Agreement was unsuccessful, then, the planned coded message was `Beti Hui, Beti Hui, Beti Hui ` This is the situation. That`s why, perhaps, there has been so much of confusion also that the Congress-led UPA Government has been totally confused in the last 3-4 months because if you look, in December, there was the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, then, there was an unfortunate rape in Delhi, then, the Verma Committee, which did such a wonderful job in just three weeks, was constituted, then, we had an Ordinance in 2013, which had no mention of the word `rape` in it. Then, we come to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013. In three months, we have come to three dissimilar legislations. So, I just begin to wonder: Do they legislate in haste and repent in leisure, just like they did in the TADA? But, overall, I would say that party is happy with this `reasonably` good law. And, I would like to appeal to so many of my friends in the Media also not to please make it a debate between 18 and 16 because it has suddenly become the focus of the debate. It is beyond 18 and 16.
Madam, let me focus on some of the good things in this law. Because of the limited time, I would go through each one of them very quickly. First, of course, is broadening the definition of `rape`. In added words, penile intercourse is not the only way of rape because there have been some sordid stories in the last ten years or so about all kinds of instruments being penetrated into women`s vagina. So, that`s great that the definition of `rape` has been truly broadened. On `consent`, one has an explanation. And, this is very, very welcome. And, I will tell you why. Otherwise, a woman had to actually prove either through marks on her body or scratches. So, at least, now, there is a comfort where she does not need to go and prove this. The downside of that is, `Is this a loose woman?` Because you don`t have any marks, you have, kind of, invited me. That`s a very positive sign. The third one, which we find extremely positive, is on the new offences. These include disrobing, we have been reading in newspapers that dalit women are often disrobed; acid attack, we keep talking about what happened in December, but I take Members back to one case, it was a very, very brave girl, called Sonali Shakti, the girl on whose face acid had been thrown and her whole life got changed; stalking and voyeurism. Good! I know a lot of people are scared that the offences of voyeurism and stalking will trap innocent men. And, to be frank, there are some reasons to be of little concern about this. But, overall, when we are talking about observing a woman, think of that woman who goes to an open toilet, somewhere on the fields, and there is somebody waiting for this. So, I think, we should look at `stalking` and ` voyeurism` in the broader sense. And, if the men here are a little bit scared that this will be misused, I am sure, we have a belief in the ladies of India that this will not be misused and this will be a positive, positive development. There are issues of stalking and voyeurism. But, I think, over all, it is very good. Look at the case of Priyadarshini Mattoo. We need to understand one thing; rape is the top of the pyramid. A man does not rape a woman suddenly in one night. You build it up from the bottom of the pyramid. How many girls or boys have not been groped in a bus, in a city?
I will make an honest confession, Madam. When I was 13, I was groped in a Kolkata bus. What do you do? You don`t feel like telling anybody. But the idea here is, there has to be that social awareness, and this is not just passing a law. The social awareness has to come like I gave you the example of the bus. If you see somebody in a bus, who has been groped, the lady first needs to scream out loud and, then people will be socially aware. The schools have a role to play; the media have a role to play, and also the implementing authorities. Now when I say implementing authorities, here again, the Government has rushed through this because there is also the question of funding; there is money involved. The States will handle this. But, I am afraid; the States were not given enough time, 72 hours to reply. So, I think the Government will need to put its money where its mouth is. If it really wants to create a social awareness, it needs to earmark some funds to make this social awareness possible.
There is one more quick point that I want to make on hospitals. That`s good. There is a good and there is a bad. The good part is that the woman who is in a traumatic state does not need to go to a hospital and register an FIR. It is good. The hospital needs to do the FIR. But the dangerous part is – and, here, please take note of it – that the Government will have to spell out a reimbursement formula for practitioners. Otherwise, I am afraid, this provision, every time, will be challenged in court! I will conclude.
Madam, the three most favourite people in my life are all women – my mother, my wife and my daughter; and they have been listening to this and I have been talking to them. I said, `What would you like to be?` You know we talk about women being deified, they are Gods, they are sisters, they are mothers; all very well. They need to be what they really are. They are half the earth; they are half the sky. We owe to all these women. Let`s make them citizens of India. Thank you.