India passes strict law to curb crimes against womenBMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f2531 (Published 18 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2531
President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to strict laws to check crimes that target women, after the gang rape in December 2012 of a student who subsequently died from her injuries sparked nationwide protests over the safety of women in the country.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 has provisions for increased sentences for rape convictions, including life term and death sentences, and stringent punishment for offences such as acid attacks, stalking, and voyeurism.
Through the revised bill the government has amended various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Although most of the amendments relate to crimes, a provision in the law also punishes police and hospital authorities with imprisonment of up to two years if they fail to register a complaint or treat a victim.
M C Patel, chairman of the ethics and medicolegal committee of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India, told the BMJ, “It is an absolute and total obligation of doctors, whether in private or government service, to extend their services with due expertise for protecting the life of the victim without interference from laws of procedure.”
He also said that the state machinery should refrain from unduly harassing doctors who have to be witnesses in such cases.
“Healthcare providers should be sensitised on the proper methods of examination, evidence collection, certification, and treatment of survivors of such cases so that there is no conflict later,” he added.
The federation, in partnership with various medical bodies, organised continuing medical education and workshops for healthcare providers on such medicolegal issues, he said.
Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2531