Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI: Women’s groups, organisations and individuals have appealed to Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily to amend the laws on sexual violence at the earliest, arguing that there is an urgent need for strict and exemplary action against any state functionaries who conspire to deny justice to victims of sexual violence.

The organisations and individuals, coming under the banner of ANHAD, called for a time-bound national discussion on ways to democratically advance law reforms.

Merely bringing in a law to fast-track cases through the proposed Sexual Offences (Special Courts) Bill, or making character evidence illegal, or sexual offences cognisable would not solve the difficulties, beyond the immediate context, going by the endless histories of those victimised by sexual violence, the letter said. Unless the definitional and substantive aspects of the rape law and those dealing with sexual harassment, molestation, unnatural offences and abduction of girls and women in everyday contexts were amended, the proposed law would remain a hollow gesture, it said.

The letter said it was the experience of the Domestic Violence Act that stipulating time alone did not mean that cases would be heard in time. Nor did special courts, as seen in the cases of communal riots, ensure justice, since they did not take into account the problems faced by survivors in testifying.

Calling for re-defining rape, the letter wanted to include marital rape as a crime.

Copies of the letter have been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Girija Vyas, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Shantha Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath and the National Human Rights Commission.