Sexual assault to replace 'rape' in IPC

NDTV 24X7 , MARCH 16, 2010 , NEW DELHI

Every 54 minutes a woman is raped in India, but less than 36 per cent of the rapists end up in jail. Rape has long been considered one of the worst crimes, almost at par with murder. For years, lawyers and activists have argued that the penalty for rape, currently seven years, is far too lenient. Now, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is all set to introduce dramatic changes, not just on rape but all sexual crimes. The government is planning to introduce a draft bill. And among the most controversial changes being worked on in the new bill, is about expanding the ambit of sexual assault. Feminists will welcome the change to expand the definition of rape beyond forced intercourse to include sexual assault.

The bill proposes a life term for convicted rapists and also seeks harsher sentences for assaults against minors and victims who have been gang raped or who were assaulted while in official custody to include shelter homes, hospitals and the police stations .  “Very often the victim goes to the police, because they don’t register a case. Very often the victim is raped there again. When they go for a medical checkup they are raped there too,” said Girja Vayas, Chairperson, National Commission for Women (NCW).

But the other proposals have divided public opinion sharply. For instance, the bill seeks to make sexual assault gender neutral by also including sexual violence by a man against another, a woman against a woman, and most controversially – by a woman against a man. “Men are also victims of crime. But yes it is true that it can lead to some false cases too and can be used to settle scores as intercourse does not need to take place,” said Ravi Kant, Activist, Shakti Vahini.

If the law makers do amend these provision of the IPC, it would mean not only stricter penalties for those who commit violent sexual offences, but also an acceptance of the new sexual orientation groups of modern India.

Vital Voices partners with Avon

Vital Voices and the Avon Foundation for Women will also support these delegations when they return to their home countries with regional programs.

Vital Voices  and The Avon Foundation for Women ( has announced the The Global Partnership to End Violence Against women, a innovative collaboration with the U.S. State Department to combat the most destructive types of violence against women and help ensure justice for women and girls worldwide. In response to the nearly one billion women worldwide who will be affected by violence in their lifetime, The Global Partnership will address the need for serious, sustained on the ground research and development, as well as actionable, collaborative, culturally-sensitive local solutions that can change these statistics in a measurable way.

To facilitate the Global Partnership, Avon and the Avon Foundation for Women announced US$1.2 mn in donations to Vital Voices to bring together 15 country delegations consisting of leaders from diverse sectors –business, government, law enforcement, the NGO community, media/entertainment, academia and others – in a first-of-its-kind global forum to share insights, forge collaborations, and seek ways to overcome challenging cultural realities that have been barriers to progress. Vital Voices and the Avon Foundation for Women will also support these delegations when they return to their home countries with regional programs and a toolkit that can be used on a year-long basis as action plans are implemented.

Alyse Nelson, President of Vital Voices says the issue of violence against women has been ignored for too long. “While one in three women will be the victim of abuse or violence at some point in their lives, not nearly enough attention has been given to this global crisis.” she said. “Around the world, services for victims are often vastly underfunded or unavailable and in many countries, laws to protect women do not exist or are not understood nor enforced. The economic cost of domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking together is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars. It’s going to take real commitment and partnership within all countries to address their specific problems with culturally sensitive solutions that are truly sustainable over time.”

Andrea Jung, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Avon Products Inc., commented: “It is more urgent than ever to confront this growing global challenge,” she said. “With over six million Avon Representatives in more than 100 countries, Avon is the largest engine of economic opportunity for women on earth. We have seen first hand that when a woman is empowered economically, she can escape an abusive situation. Given our close personal connections with women, we feel it is our obligation and responsibility, and that we are uniquely suited, to be a committed partner in the search for innovative solutions that truly make a difference to ending the epidemic of violence against women in our lifetime.”

The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women is founded on the premise that local experts are best suited to know what solutions will work in their own communities. Cindy Dyer, Vital Voices’ Senior Director for Human Rights says: “The hope is that by bringing delegates from around the world who are working on these issues in their countries and who understand the nuances of their unique communities, we’ll be able to develop and implement more sustainable programs to protect victims and prevent violence and trafficking from occurring in the first place.  The goal of The Global Partnership is to support these local teams with information, resources and funding. This will be an ongoing effort, local implementation supported by global collaboration and sharing of best practices as we work to create a safer world for women and girls.”

The delegation from India is comprised of Judge Swati Abhay Chauhan, Nishi Kant, Executive Director, Shakti Vahini, Sunitha Krishnan, Co-founder, Prajwala (“Eternal Flame”), and Sister Mary Michael, Coordinator, National Domestic Workers Welfare Trust, Kerala Region. During their time at the Conference, the Indian delegation discussed the most successful methods to combat violence against women in India. Once they return to India, they will work with local NGOs and the government to implement their ideas and develop them over the next year to achieve the greatest success possible in addressing this global problem in their home country.

As part of Avon’s ongoing collaboration in support of this issue, Reese Witherspoon, the company’s global ambassador and honorary chairperson of the Avon Foundation for Women, today announced a new Avon fundraising product for 2010 — the Women’s Empowerment Ring — that the company anticipates will raise significant funds to support local country initiatives to end violence against women. The Women’s Empowerment Ring is launched as a companion piece to the Women’s Empowerment Bracelet and the Women’s Empowerment Necklace, launched in 2008 and 2009 respectively, which together have raised $8 million globally. Avon India will take part in the fundraising product to support this cause 2011 onwards.

“There is nothing more important for all of us than ensuring the safety of women and girls everywhere.  The problem is so pervasive, it’s critical that we find ways to work together, as a global community, to combat it,” says Witherspoon.  “I applaud this groundbreaking new Partnership, and look forward to the innovative ideas and solutions it will produce.”

This year, Vital Voices will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its creation following the Beijing Women’s Conference where then-First Lady Hillary Clinton equated women’s rights to human rights. Since then, it has developed programs to help provide safety and justice for women in more than 50 countries nationwide. The Avon Foundation for Women launched Speak Out Against Domestic Violence in 2004 to provide funding to domestic violence organizations for awareness, education, prevention programs and direct services for victims. In a few short years, Avon global philanthropy has committed more than US$16 mn to end violence against women.