India has been accused of “failure” to curb incidents of sexual violence against women and for “restrictions” on right to free speech by global rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW), which said the country continues to have “significant human rights problems.”
“India has a thriving civil society, free media, and an independent judiciary”, the city-based rights group said in its assessment of rights abuses in India. However, it added “longstanding abusive practices, corruption, and lack of accountability for perpetrators foster human rights violations.”
In its 665-page World Report 2013, it said government initiatives, including police reform and improved access to health care and education, “languish” due to poor implementation. “Many women, children, Dalits, tribal communities, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and sexual and gender minorities remain marginalised and continue to suffer discrimination because of government failure to train public officials in stopping discriminatory behaviour,” HRW said.
The rights group was critical of India for the way it has addressed the problem of violence against women, saying that incidents of violence against women and girls continued in 2012, with increased reports of sexual assault, including against those with disabilities.
“India has yet to enact amendments to reform its penal laws to recognise a wide range of sexual offences,” it said.
While the Central government modified its protocols for handling rape investigations, removing questions on the degrading “two-finger test”, the changes still fall short of World Health Organization guidelines on sexual assault, especially regarding medical treatment for victims.
On India’s performance in the area of freedom of expression, HRW said the government used laws to tighten internet censorship, raising concerns about restrictions on the right to free speech.