India's lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, passed an anti-rape law [text, PDF] on Wednesday in an attempt to redefine rape and increase the criminal penalties associated with it. The law is expected to be passed by the upper house in the current session. The lower house's changes would allow [WP report] as much as a death sentence for those convicted of rape where the victim dies or is left incapacitated. Those convicted of gang rape or rape of a minor will now receive a minimum of 20 years in prison. The law would also criminalize stalking, voyeurism and acts of sexual harassment. The new law would also lift the requirement of government approval to charge police officers and other officials with rape. However, critiques of the law say it does not go far enough because it does not address marital rape or immunity for military offices.
There has been a growing outcry for harsher penalties and reform in technical aspects India's law since the rape and subsequent death [BBC reports] of a medical student in December. Last month India's president signed the proposed changes that the Lok Sabha passed. India created a committee in January that recommended the legal reforms in its report [JURIST report]. In December Indian authorities charged six suspects [JURIST report] with murder after the death of the gang rape victim. Also in December Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official profile] called for peace [JURIST report] after a protest over sexual violence resulted in a clash between protesters and police.