Rape, impunity and state of denial IASToppers
Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Rape, impunity and state of denial

The government is showing utter lack of will despite the availability of Verma committee’s suggestions.
By IASToppers
December 12, 2019

Contents

  • Context
  • Scenario of Violence against women in India
  • Suggestions of J.S. Verma Committee
  • Way Forward
  • Conclusion
  • Key Facts
  • IT’s Input

Rape, impunity and state of denial

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Context

The horrific violence, gang rape and murder of the young woman veterinarian on a national highway close to Hyderabad has led to national outrage and protests in several States. This incidence, along with other recent rape events, shows that there is a national emergency in India as far as crimes against women, specifically sexual crimes, are concerned.

Rape

Scenario of Violence against women in India

  • The annual National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB) report 2017 showed an alarming increase in registered crimes against women.
  • Out of 1,000 crimes registered every day in 2017, 93 cases were on rape. One-third of them were minors.
  • Around 87,924 women registered cases of sexual harassment.
  • Every day, 28 women were burnt to death in cases registered as ‘dowry deaths’.
  • National Family Health Survey-4 revealed that every third married woman had experienced physical and/or sexual violence but only 1.5% had sought help from the police.
  • The backlog of cases, including cases of child rape, is huge. For all crimes against women, the pendency of cases is as high as 89.6%.
  • In 2017, there were as many as 1.17 lakh rape cases from previous years pending trial. Additionally, in 2017, more than 28,000 more cases were sent for trial. However, mere 5,800 cases under trial were convicted.
  • Moreover, since 2016, the annual National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB) reports have been suppressed. The 2017 report was released only in 2019.
  • Women’s assertions for a right to safe public spaces are met with a ferocious backlash. In particular, Dalit and Adivasi women, poor women working in the most unsafe conditions created by resurgent caste and class hierarchies, are the most vulnerable.

J.S. Verma Committee

In India, after the Nirbhaya case, the committee set up under Justice J.S. Verma had made a series of recommendations for prevention of crimes. It placed the responsibility on the Central and State governments to ensure the social and physical infrastructure to prevent crimes against women.

Suggestions made by J.S. vermin committee:

  • Changes in school and college syllabi to educate young people on the social values of equality and respect for women’s autonomy;
  • Ensuring safe public transport, city and street lighting, CCTV cameras;
  • Mapping unsafe areas and provision of increased police patrolling in such areas etc.

However, even six years after this report, the government is still asking Parliament for further suggestions, displaying an utter lack of political will.

Way Forward

  • There is need to implement the J.S. verma’s recommendations to make India safe for women and children, through increased public action for social change and enforcement of a code of accountability and responsibility on the Central and State governments.
  • A UN report on steps required to provide safety and security for women states that “women’s safety involves strategies that take place before violence has occurred to prevent victimisation. Prevention efforts involve strategic, long-term, comprehensive initiatives that address the risk and protective factors related to perpetration, victimisation and bystander behaviour.”

Conclusion

The death penalty for rape and murder, from global experience, shows that such punishments have not led to a decrease in crimes. Hence, the issue is not just the stringency of punishment, but as much the certainty of it through fair procedures that discourage crime.

The struggle against sexual violence is equally a struggle against the policies and cultures which disempower women.

Key Facts

From 2015-17, Majority of cases under crimes against women out of total IPC crimes against women were registered under ‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives’ (33.2%) followed by ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (27.3%), ‘Kidnapping & Abduction of Women’ (21.0%) and ‘Rape’ (10.3%).

IT’s Input

Recommendations of Justice J.S. Verma committee

Punishment for Rape:

  • Does not recommended the death penalty for rapists.
  • Punishment for rape should be rigorous imprisonment (RI) for seven years to life.
  • Gang-rape should entail punishment of not less than 20 years, which may also extend to life and gang-rape followed by death, should be punished with life imprisonment.

Punishment for other sexual offences

  • Voyeurism be punished with upto seven years in jail; Acid attacks would be punished by up to seven years if imprisonment; trafficking will be punished with RI for seven upto ten years.

Registering complaints and medical examination:

  • Every complaint of rape must be registered by the police and civil society should perform its duty to report any case of rape coming to its knowledge.
  • Suggested protocols for medical examination of victims of sexual assault.

Marriages to be registered:

  • All marriages in India should mandatorily be registered in the presence of a magistrate, to ensure that the marriage has been solemnised without any demand for dowry.

Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure:

  • The proposed Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2012, should be modified. A special procedure for protecting persons with disabilities from rape, and requisite procedures for access to justice for such persons is an urgent need.

Bill of Rights for women:

  • A separate Bill of Rights for women that entitles a woman a life of dignity and security and will ensure that a woman shall have the right to have complete sexual autonomy.

Review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act:

  • There is an imminent need to review the continuance of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in areas as soon as possible. Recommended posting special commissioners for women’s safety in conflict areas.

Police reforms:

  • Police officers with reputations of outstanding ability must be placed at the higher levels of the police force. Every member of the police force must understand their accountability.

Role of the judiciary:

  • The Chief Justice of India could be approached to commence appropriate proceedings on the judicial side.
  • The Chief Justice may consider making appropriate orders relating to the issue of missing children to curb the illegal trade of their trafficking.

Political Reforms:

  • In the event cognizance has been taken by a magistrate of a criminal offence, the candidate ought to be disqualified from participating in the electoral process. Any candidate who fails to disclose a charge should be disqualified subsequently.
  • Lawmakers facing criminal charges, who have already been elected to Parliament and state legislatures, should voluntarily vacate their seats.

 

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