Wednesday, May 29, 2013

U.N. expert says India's new anti-rape law is insufficient

Demonstrators shout slogans in New Delhi, on Feb. 7, 2013, during a protest to demand harsher punishments and quicker trials for rape cases. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

 NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India missed a golden opportunity to tackle violence against women, by enacting a law that toughens punishments against sex offenders but fails to address the root causes and consequences of gender abuse, a U.N. expert said Wednesday.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, or "anti-rape law" was enacted last month, after the fatal December gang rape of a student sparked protests over the treatment of women in the largely patriarchal country.

The legislation, which includes death for repeat rapists, was based on a recommendations made by a panel headed by late former Chief Justice J.S. Verma, but it disappointed many activists who said it had been watered down.

Rashida Manjoo, U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women, who was on a 10-day visit to investigate gender abuses in the country, told a news conference that the making of a new law had presented a "golden moment" for India, but that this has had been lost.

"While this legislative reform is to be commended, it is regrettable that the amendments do not fully reflect the Verma Committee's recommendations," Manjoo said.

"This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework which is underpinned by transformative norms and standards, including those relating to sexual and bodily integrity rights. Furthermore the approach adopted fails to address the structural and root causes of and consequences of violence against women."

Manjoo, a South African national, said criminalising marital rape, lowering the age of consent from 18 to 16, and addressing sexual abuses faced by gays, lesbians and transgenders should have been part of the legislative reforms.


Indian girls and women face a plethora of threats. These include sexual and domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, crimes in the name of honour, witch-branding, acid attacks, female foeticide, early marriage and human trafficking.

According to latest figures from the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), there were 228,650 reported crimes committed against women in 2011, an increase of seven percent from the previous year.

Manjoo, who travelled to various regions of the country including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Manipur and Tamil Nadu, met with many women who shared their personal experiences of violence and survival.

"The pain and anguish in the testimonies of loss, dispossession, and various human rights violations, was visceral and often difficult to deal with," she said. "The denial of constitutional rights in general, and the violation of the rights of equality, dignity, bodily integrity, life and access to justice in particular, was a theme that was common in many testimonies."

The U.N. envoy said that she did not meet with very senior officials, despite requests to meet with parliamentarians, the minister for women and child development, members of the judiciary and Sonia Gandhi, leader of the ruling Congress-led coalition government.

She added that although it was part of her mandate, she also did not gain access to shelters, psychiatric hospitals, detention centres or jails. "Unfortunately it didn't happen on this mission. But the norm on many of my missions is that I do get access to speaking to people," she said. "There was no refusal in India about meeting with anyone in particular. There was silence and silence is not acquiescence."


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Awareness, activism opens floodgate for rape complaints

NAGPUR: It's raining rape complaints at police stations in the city and rural areas. The graph of registration of such offences, along with that of the outraging of modesty of a woman, has suddenly taken an upswing.
Whether it's activism or awareness, a comparison of the crime statistics of the first three months of 2011 and the ongoing year have shown that rape offences have almost doubled and outraging of modesty risen by three times.

Till March this year, the city police have recorded 20 offences of rape and another 51 for outraging of modesty. In rural, it's 19 and 50, respectively. In 2011, the count stood at 9 and 7 in the city, and 11-18 in rural.

Social worker Madhuri Sakulkar, president of Bharatiya Stree Shakti, said that the uproar following the Delhi gang rape in a bus in December has helped lift the stigma attached to the sexual abuse against women. "The women have realized that speaking up is the answer to the issue and not shedding silent tears. Police too have changed their approach by not discouraging registration of offences," she said.

Last year till March, city police had registered 12 cases of rape and 22 of outraging modesty of a woman. In rural, it was 6-14.

Former assistant commissioner of police Madhuri Godse said that society is ailing with sickening mentality and low respect of women's dignity due to imbalanced exposure to explicit materials on latest gadgets. "There is no other way but to initiate a moral cleansing from home particularly with the young adults," she said.

Former family court judge Meera Khadakkar said that the increase in complaints can be linked to the sustained awareness and fights of the pressure groups which are hitting the roads crying foul against atrocities against women.

NCP city women president Nutan Rewatkar, who helped two rape victims file complaints this year, said that the recent incidents underline the need for an exclusive police station for women. "Not the law but punishments should be drastic and quick," she said.

Additional public prosecutor advocate Jyoti Vajani, who has helped several rape victims get justice, stated that law cannot help until morality is drilled into the next generation. "We cannot afford acquittals in rape cases. Acquittals boost the morals of the perpetrators who would go on victimizing women. The prosecutions, public prosecutors, police and judges all need to play their respective roles with sensitivity and responsibility so that all these factors can come together to bring justice to a devastated soul," she said.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Girl attacked with acid for resisting advances

TNN May 7, 2013, 01.25AM IST
ALLAHABAD: An 18-year-old man, whose attempt to rape a 16-year-old girl was thwarted recently, came back with vengeance and threw acid on the girl in the trans-Yamuna area of Allahabad district on Monday.
The man, identified as Manjoo, has been arrested and sent to jail. Police said the accused threw acid on the girl at Bhita village under Ghoorpur police station in the wee hours of Monday. "The accused managed to enter the house of the victim at around 1.30am while the family was asleep. He then threw acid on the girl, resulting in burn injuries on her face and hands," the police said.

As the girl shrieked, her family members rushed to her and found her in a semi-conscious condition. She was rushed to the SRN Hospital, where her condition is "serious".
Station Officer, Ghoorpur, JP Rai told TOI: "The police have arrested the accused. He had earlier made an abortive attempt to outrage the modesty of the girl but the villagers had sorted out the issue through the village panchayat."
He added that the girl, a student of Class IX, was admitted to the emergency ward of the hospital. Locals said the accused had been harassing the girl for a long time but the police had not taken any action.