The Indian government should ratify the United Nations Prevention of Torture Bill, demanded People’s Union for Human Rights (PUHR) at its conference organised here on Wednesday to mark the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with Victims of Torture.

A resolution was passed to this effect stating that India, a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture, had not yet ratified the Prevention of Torture Bill-2010, which was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010. Stating that torture should be made a punishable crime under a separate law, advocate T. Lajapathi Roy of the Madras High Court said that an increase in the number of police atrocities such as encounter deaths and custodial violence indicated that there was an urgent need to frame adequate laws to prevent them. Sr. Fathima Antony, former principal, Fatima College, said that the gendered nature of violence was overlooked during riots and other forms of collective violence where women became soft targets as they were seen as symbols of caste and religious purity. R. Murali, Principal, Madura College, said that awareness should be created among students about the issue of torture. They should be educated about the laws that protect the rights of citizens. People should come together and organise a movement to propagate non-violence and make it a way of life, he said. Many women from the marginalised sections of society, including Dalits and fisherfolk, who were victims of various forms of torture, recounted their experiences at the conference.

Demands

Speakers at the conference put forth the following demands: Laws should be framed exclusively to protect and provide livelihood support to transgenders. Police encounter deaths in the State have increased. This should be stopped as the victims in such cases were denied the opportunity to exercise their right to take their case to the legal forums. In the name of crime and theft detection, a particular community, the Kal Ottar tribe, and a few itinerant communities were being victimised by the police and this needs to be stopped by the government.

Parthasarathy and advocate C.J Rajan, members of the PUHR, were among others who spoke at the conference.

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