Congress MP Dr.Shashi Tharoor has introduced a private bill in the Lok Sabha to make marital rape a crime.
The Bill proposes the deletion of Exception 2 to Section 375 of Indian Penal Code, which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape.
The Bill titled Women's Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Righst Bill 2018 also adds a proviso to Explanation 2 that "the women's ethnicity, religion, caste, education, profession, clothing preference, entertainment preference, social circle, personal opinion, past sexual conduct or any other related grounds shall not be a reason to presume her consent to the sexual activity."
Introducing the Bill on Friday, Tharoor explained that the Bill's central idea was the "agency of women".
The existing laws fail to recognize 'woman' as an individual capable of making her own choices, specifically her sexual choices as a wife and her reproductive choices when pregnant, the MP from Thiruvananthapuram said.
The Bill further proposes amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971.
The name of the Act is proposed to be changed as 'Legal Termination of Pregnancy Act'. This is on the ground that the usage of the word 'medical' in the title of the Bill created ambiguity, which mainly impacted rural areas as the doctors there feared to interpret the law in case of an arrest under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 312 punishes anyone who causes a voluntary miscarriage including the woman herself.
The Bill grants women absolute right to termination of pregnancy where she may terminate pregnancy merely by her request until the 12th week of pregnancy. The women also gets conditional right to terminate pregnancy until 20th week. This right is conditional on a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health, or if there is a substantial risk of physical, mental or genetic abnormality of the foetus after being certified by at least one Registered Medical Practitioner.
Pregnancies caused by rape or by failure of birth control methods are deemed to constitute grave injury to the mental health of the woman.
Further, the Bill grants limited right of abortion until 24th week. The Act limited termination of pregnancy to the 20th week of pregnancy unless the survival of the woman was at risk. "This led to vulnerable women like victims of rape and disabled women who had no risk of injury, threat to their life or foetus with an abnormality be embroiled in a legal dispute for their right to abort. In order to avoid an added trauma for these vulnerable women, the limit is extended to the 24th week. It is not indefinite, as around 22-24th week a foetus becomes viable i.e. it has the ability to live outside the womb of the mother, upholding the foetus/child's right to life over the choice of the mother", states the explanatory note added to the Bill.
Free distribution of sanitary napkins
The Bill suggests amendment to Right to Education Act to make provision for free distribution of sanitary napkins by schools.
It also mandates that all public authorities should ensure availability of sanitary napkins, free of cost, at offices.