The entire country is urging the Central Government for action to protect women against sexual harassment and to punish the culprits through a speedy judicial procedure. Hence the Centre has decided to pass a bill to reform the law on crimes against sexual abuse by awarding the stringent punishment and setting up fast track courts.
At this juncture, I would like to throw light on an important issue related to sexual harassment. These crimes are peculiar as the sufferer is victimised by society and forced to go through mental trauma when she turns to justice. They are re-living the assault mentally with greater pain during questioning at the police station and also during court proceedings. For fear of going through this humiliation, many victims hesitate to go public and get the culprit punished. This fear of social ostracism has been taken advantage of by culprits.
Even in in-camera proceedings, the victim has to give her statement before a judge — in many cases a male — and the advocates and other officers may also be male. Thus, she is constrained from coming out with the whole truth about the gravity of the crime and this results in lighter punishment for the guilty.
As a lawyer, I have come across many such incidents during court proceedings and have also heard from victims who seek help. It is important to minimise post-crime trauma during judicial proceedings.
In cases of sexual abuse and harassment of women, from the time of registering the case at the police station to the administration of justice, if women officials and judges are involved, the victims will get solace to a great extent.
Thus, along with all-women police stations, if we set up all-women special fast track courts for sexual harassment against women, we can ensure the support of the system to get justice. Thereby, the victims will come out in the open and cooperate with the authorities.
The fast track courts will give immediate punishment and people will have faith in the judiciary. The proposed reforms in the Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act should ensure that whoever commits such crime cannot escape t punishment. These should also infuse confidence in the victim that since she is not the offender, her dignity and self-respect will be maintained by protecting her identity. Thereby, the law can be enforced effectively against all such crimes.
When these changes come true, these will no doubt create panic in the persons who intend to commit sexual abuse, thereby preventing such crimes.
(The writer’s email: email@example.com)