Activists and women’s groups oppose the Maharashtra Shakti bill and ask CM Thackeray not to present it

Several activists, lawyers and women’s organizations have urged Maharashtra’s chief minister Uddhav Thackeray not to introduce the Shakti bill, calling it draconian legislation that is fundamentally against women and has the potential to deny the very crime of rape.

A statement from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said last Wednesday that two bills will be introduced in the legislature: the Maharashtra Shakti (Maharashtra Amendment) Criminal Law Act, 2020, and the Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of the Maharashtra Shakti Penal Law. 2020: shaping the law against perpetrators of crimes against women and children.

Read also | ‘Shakti Law’: Maharashtra’s New Sex Crimes Bill Will Have Death Penalty And Heavy Fines

The bill will go before the state legislature during the upcoming two-day winter session in Mumbai from December 14-15. The bills are intended to reduce the rate of crimes against women and propose the death penalty, severe punishment, life imprisonment, and heavy fines as rewards for crimes.

The consensus of a large group of feminist activists, lawyers, leaders of women’s organizations and academics working on the issue is that the bills go against their fundamental beliefs and principles.

They have said in a letter, dated December 11, that the proposed amendment to Section 375 that says that when the parties are adults and the conduct of said parties of all circumstances surrounding it appears that there was consent or implied consent , presumes consent, denies the full definition of consent in the section and of violation itself. She said this is a step back for women’s rights after the 2013 amendments in which, according to the Verma Committee report, the definition of consent was added to the section.

“While it is said that the law is made to do justice to women, it fuels the patriarchal construction of women’s consent and conduct. It goes against the statement and the object of this bill. In many rape cases, the defendant accepts the declaration of consent with such an explanation and, furthermore, it will be impossible for the prosecution to establish the rape. Such an explanation denies and nullifies the same crime of rape, “said the letter with 92 signatories.

They said the bill reached them on December 10, giving them less time for detailed review and criticism. She also questioned the power of the death penalty as an effective deterrent to crimes against women and stated that the proposed amendments may endanger the lives of survivors and reduce the number of complaints in the event of sexual assault on children, as that reports suggest that most of the crimes covered by the Law for the Protection of Children against Sexual Offenses (Pocso) are committed by persons known to children.

Organizations such as Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Sanghatana, MumbaiBebaakCollective, MumbaiBhartiya Mahila Federation (NFIW), TISSStree Mukti Sanghatana; Indira Jaising defenders Veena Gowda and Ruble Sarkar; Professors Asha Bajpai and Anjali Monteiro; activists Manisha Gupte and Snehal Velkar and others have signed the letter opposing the bills.