22 September, 2020

Define, Refine, Redefine

Are the new laws against sexual harassment and rape ‘draconian’? The Tejpal debate.

AFP (From Outlook 03 March 2014)
Define, Refine, Redefine

Ever since Tarun Tejpal, founder-editor of Tehelka, was arrested in November 2013 for the ‘rape’ of a junior colleague in a Goa resort, there has been plenty of debate on whether what he is accused of doing constitutes rape. With the police formally charging him so under seven sections of the new law that came into force last April, the public is taking its first good look at these provisions. The question being asked in some circles: is a 10-year prison sentence for three minutes of non-penile misconduct in a moving lift taking things too far?

The reason Tejpal and others in similar situations are feeling the heat of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, is simple: it places the woman at the centre of the legislation. The law unambiguou­sly asserts a woman’s right to her body. Any invasion of that privacy, whether with the penis (as rape was defined traditionally) or with any other object, amounts to rape. A woman’s body is her private space. Anyone who transgresses this space has to suffer the consequ­ences....



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