REWARI, India -- India passed anti-rape legislation Thursday that included a controversial provision setting the age of sexual consent at 18.
Reformers argued the law, which was passed in a hurried response to public anger over the fatal mid-December rape of a 23-year old physiotherapy student, should set the age at 16 to prevent wrongful arrests in a changing society.
However, conservatives prevailed, fearful a lower age would encourage premarital sex and undermine Indian morality.
The wide-ranging new law also makes stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks and forcibly disrobing a woman explicit crimes for the first time, provides capital punishment for rapes leading to death and raises to 20 years from 10 the minimum sentence for gang rape and rapes committed by a police officer.
The law doesn’t address marital rape, rape committed by the armed forces or rape against men.
The statute, which takes effect once the president signs it, replaces an anti-rape ordinance that was to expire April 4.
"We have tried to bring in a strong law, which is pro-women and will act as a deterrent," Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told lawmakers Thursday.