A day before an all-party meet to debate the controversial anti-rape bill, the UPA government Sunday said it would evolve a consensus on the issue.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) have expressed reservations over the legislation.
“We hope there will be a consensus (on the issue) at the all-party meet,” a Congress minister said.
The SP is opposed to the bill, particularly the clause on lowering the age for consensual sex from 18 to 16 years.
“We will oppose the bill at the all-party meeting. If it is brought for voting in parliament, the SP will vote against it,” party leader Ram Gopal Yadav had said Friday.
The BJP is also concerned over the clause.
BJP leader Najma Heptulla had said: “If a person below 18 is a juvenile and is given relaxed punishments because he is not mature enough to know the consequences of what he is doing, how is a child of 16 mature enough to consent to sexual activity?”
However, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supported the government and said the controversial provisions of the bill could be discussed in parliament.
“Our party will support the anti-rape bill being brought by the central government in any form and shape,” BSP chief Mayawati had told reporters on Friday.
Last week the government managed to resolve the differences over the bill within the cabinet with a group of ministers debating the controversial clauses threadbare.
The ministers differed on the use of word “rape” in place of “sexual assault”, lowering of age of consent from 18 to 16 years and the definition of voyeurism and stalking, punishable under the bill.
The bill also proposes the death penalty in the rarest of rare cases for rape and for repeat offenders.
It also incorporated suggestions of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee formed to give views to make anti-rape laws stronger.
The issue has been in sharp focus after the brutal assault and gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi Dec 16 last year. She succumbed to her injuries Dec 29 in a Singapore hospital where she had been airlifted for treatment.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, will replace the ordinance promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee Feb 3.
It has to be passed by April 4, within six weeks from Feb 21, when parliament’s budget session started.
Activists have accused the government of lacking political will to bring stronger laws to protect women.