TEN KEY RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE AFTER NIRBHAYA GANG RAPE INCIDENT
A panel set up in response to public outcry over the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman has delivered its report outlining recommendations on how to tackle gender violence in the largely patriarchal country.
The panel, headed by former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, received over 80,000 responses from the public as well as women’s rights groups, academics, gender experts and lawyers, compiling their suggestions into what commentators have described as a “path-breaking” and “progressive” report.
Here is a list of the 10 key recommendations put forward by the Verma Committee in its 630-page report:
1. MAKE VOYEURISM, STALKING AND INTENTIONAL TOUCHING AN OFFENCE
– Make voyeurism an offence punishable by a maximum jail term of three years
– Make stalking an offence punishable by a maximum jail term of three years
– Intentional touching, using obscene language or gestures should be treated as a sexual assault offence
2. AMEND RAPE LAWS
– Rape of a minor should carry a minimum jail term of 10 years
– Gang rape should be defined in the Indian Penal Code and be punishable by at least 20 years imprisonment
– Death caused by rape should carry a minimum penalty of 20 years in jail
– Make marital rape a criminal offence
3. REVIEW SECURITY LAWS IN CONFLICT ZONES
– Due to the number of reports of sexual offences committed by the armed forces in India’s conflict areas such as Kashmir and the North East, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – a controversial law that gives sweeping powers to and often confers immunity on security forces – must be reviewed
– Security forces must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law rather than under army law
– Special commissioners for women’s security must be deployed in all areas of conflict. Such commissioners will have powers to monitor and take action in all cases of sexual violence against women by armed personnel
– Introduce “Breach of command responsibility” – making a senior officer of security forces or police liable to a jail term of at least seven years if his/her subordinate commits rape
4. MONITOR ILLEGAL, PATRIARCHAL VILLAGE COUNCILS
– Put in place measures to monitor illegal village councils known as “Khap Panchayats” that sanction so-called “honour killings” and impose oppressive diktats such as banning girls and women from using mobile phones, wearing western clothes or venturing out unaccompanied
5. REVIEW MEDICAL EXAMINATION OF RAPE VICTIMS
– Put in place medico-legal guidelines on how to perform a medical examination of a victim of sexual assault
– Scrap the so-called “two-finger” test – an outdated practice that examines the laxity of the vagina to determine whether the victim is “habituated to sex”
6. POLICE REFORMS
– Institute a Police Complaints Authority at district level to look into complaints against police officers who do not register complaints of gender crimes. Police who fail to register complaints or abort an investigation should be punished. This will provide more police accountability, said the commission
– All police stations should have CCTV to ensure proper procedures are being followed in handling, recording and filing complaints
– Provide appropriate technical equipment and training to police to ensure the highest standards of investigation of forensic evidence for sexual assault crimes
– Separate police investigating gender crimes from law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the public
– Increase the number of female police on patrol and on duty in police stations so that women feel comfortable filing sexual assault complaints
7. ELECTORAL REFORMS
– Lawmakers who have been charged in a court of law with serious offences such as sexual offences or dowry crimes should be disqualified from contesting elections
– Sitting parliamentarians with criminal cases against them, including those of rape and other types of sexual assault, should voluntarily vacate their seats
– There should be a code of conduct for political parties, instituting transparency in receiving donations and declaring whether parties had sanctioned people to run for elections who have criminal records
– The formal curriculum in Indian schools must be drastically revamped and sex education must be made an integral part of the curriculum
8. BILL OF RIGHTS
– India should institute a “Bill of Rights” for women, along the lines of similar bills in South Africa and New Zealand
– The bill would set out the rights guaranteed to women, which would include the right to life, security, bodily integrity, democratic and civil rights and equality
9. HUMAN TRAFFICKING
– Define the offence of trafficking in the Indian Penal Code
– Trafficking should be punishable with a jail term of no less than seven years and may extend to life imprisonment
– Employing a trafficked person, for example as a domestic servant, should carry a jail term of no less than three years.
Being in the 21st century, with technology, digitalization and development being flaunted all over the country and the world at large, the need to talk about this subject, “How safe are women in India?” still reverberates. With a profound understanding of what is happening around us, it is time that the country joins hands to realize the gravity of the issue.
While there are many cases of crime against women that are reported there are a lot more cases that are unreported and the treacherous misdoings persist. The list of crimes against women in India is exhaustive and includes acid attack, child marriages, domestic violence, forceful domestic work, child abuse, dowry deaths, female infanticide/sex-selective abortions, child labour, honour killings, rape, sexual harassment, trafficking, forced for prostitution, and many more. The list of safety laws for women in India is equally exhaustive, but despite formation of various effective rules and regulations by the system to handle and control the crimes against women, the number and frequency of crimes against women are increasing day by day.
The crux of the matter among other factors is that the authorities have not effectively implemented new laws on crimes against women. The majority of rape cases still go unreported. The status of women in the country has been growingly offensive and dreadful over the last few years.
In India a women is reportedly raped every 15 minutes. Multiply that by 24×7, 365 days a year. And keep in mind the majority of rape cases still go unreported!! The statistics on crime against women is even worse: Every 2 minutes, a woman in India is a victim of a crime. This ongoing issue of violence against women raises the real and serious question of whether India is truly ready for a seat on the global table.
One explanation for the ongoing rape problem is the skewed sex ratio. Like China, India has a massive imbalance in its sex ratio. Currently, the ratio of males to females is generally significantly greater than 1, i.e. there are more boys than girls.
Source: NCRB Report, Crime in India-2014
From the above table it is evident that the proportion of crimes against women is on the rise. The distribution of the nature of the crimes committed against women is graphically represented below.
AWAG along with other committed women’s organizations, trade unionists and responsible citizens has collectively addressed the issue in wake of the recent and recurrent heinous episodes against women in Gujarat. The collective named ‘Forum of Concerned Citizens for Naliya Incident’ that was formed following the Naliya Sex Scandal, took on its fight for justice through multipronged interventions such as holding protest demonstrations, press conferences, releasing an open letter addressed to women Sarpanchs of the country, etc.
And the fight for justice towards ensuring the dignity and respect for women continues……
As well as hosting a range of regular activities for its local projects, AWAG also offers external help to women who have suffered traumatic and violent experiences.
Last month, a six-year-old girl was raped in Ahmedabad. A four-foot iron rod was used in the process and as a result she was relieved from the use of many of her internal organs. The AWAG team visited the young girl in hospital, offering support to her family. Traumatised by the incident, the girl now feels overwhelmingly tense if approached by any male members, including male doctors and nurses. She was in brutal pain, both physically and mentally.
Rape is still a common reality in India and should not be dismissed lightly. It occurs amongst the backdrop of a society that is fundamentally underpinned by structures of patriarchy, and an evident power imbalance between women and men. This girl was one out of many helpless women and children who are raped daily in India.
For a long-term change in breaking such patriarchal structures and in order to stop rape as a weapon of gender discrimination, empowerment is essential. Education and awareness for women’s rights and the presence of this in policy will allow for such structural changes. Here at AWAG, we are fighting for this change, and working towards a better India in which this young girl could be playing freely today.