New Delhi, Oct. 31: The government is working on a draft that proposes redefining rape and increasing prison terms for sexual assault by public servants, relatives and neighbours.
The rape law amendments, a draft for which could be finalised in the next few weeks, are expected to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament, scheduled to begin from December 1.
Home ministry officials are looking at recommendations by the Law Commission of India in 2000 to substitute the word 'rape' with 'sexual assault'.
The gender-neutral term will cover not just women but also girls and boys subjected to sexual assaults, including oral sex. This definition will bring under the purview of laws related to sexual assault not only penile penetration but also penetration by any other body part or any other object.
The commission had also recommended it should be made mandatory that a woman be made available to record the statement of a female victim and a registered medical practitioner called to examine the victim and the accused when he is caught without delay.
The government is also looking at the commission's suggestion to enhance the minimum jail term to five years for forced intercourse by a public servant with an employee under his charge or by a hospital official who takes advantage of his position. The existing law stipulates a maximum jail term of five years for the offence.
The commission had also recommended introduction of a provision to make unlawful sexual contact an offence punishable with a two-year jail term.
If the offender is a member of the victim's family or had enjoyed the victim's trust, the punishment should be raised to seven years, the commission had said.
Officials said the provision was recommended to deal with the increasing number of cases of incest and would cover neighbours, too.
A similar provision is also being looked at for rape cases that will entail a minimum punishment of 10 years 'against seven years for other accused ' for incest.
The recommendation is based on a National Crime Records Bureau analysis that showed the suspects were known to the victims in 89 per cent cases in 2002. In 32 per cent cases, the suspects were neighbours.
The erstwhile National Democratic Alliance government had planned a comprehensive set of changes to tighten rape laws but the combine was voted out before it could implement them.
The Congress-led government has said it is determined to keep the previous government's promise.