Though different political parties have professed that protecting women with tougher laws that punish sexual offences is a top priority, a new law that aims to do just that may be delayed.
This evening, the cabinet will meet to consider and clear the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013. Last evening, senior ministers agreed on points of dispute that had kept the proposal from being shared in Parliament, like lowering the age of consent from 18 to 16.
But now, the BJP and the Samajwadi Paty have both reportedly hinted that they disagree with some of the major features of the new bill, many of which are seen as essential for improving the safety of women.
After the national fury over a medical student's fatal gang-rape on a Delhi bus in December, the government used an ordinance in February to introduce tough news laws that include the death penalty for extreme cases of rape, and criminalise voyeurism and stalking. The ordinance is valid till April 4, Parliament breaks for a month on March 22. If the bill is not cleared by then, the ordinance will lapse.
The BJP, sources say, is worried about recognising 16 as the age at which a teenager can legally have sex. The Samajwadi Party, a major ally of the government, reportedly has objections to features like stalking and voyeurism in the proposed law.