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Indian legislature passes new rape bill

March 21, 2013 at 5:23 PM

NEW DELHI, March 21 (UPI) -- A bill increasing penalties for rape and outlawing stalking and voyeurism has received final legislative approval in India.

The measure was inspired by the death of a woman who was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi in December, The New York Times reported.

The Rajya Sahba -- the upper house of Parliament -- passed the bill after a lengthy debate. The lower house passed it Tuesday.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is expected to sign the bill.

The assault on a student as she and a male friend rode a bus home after seeing a movie sparked outrage across India. The victim died days later in a hospital in Singapore.

"It is good that India still responds as a democracy when there is pressure from citizens," Meenakshi Ganguly, the director of Human Rights Watch in South Asia, said. "The terrible attack in Delhi, and the protests that followed, ensured that both the opposition and the government cooperated in ensuring that this law was enacted."

The bill increases penalties for rape, gang rape and rape committed by public officials, expands the definition of rape to include penetration with objects, raises the age of sexual consent to 18 and creates several new offenses, including stalking and voyeurism. It doesn't make marital rape a crime, something women's groups have long advocated.

The measure also requires that the female police officers handle the first interviews of woman victims.

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