Demand “complete” implementation of Verma Committee’s recommendations

Terming the government’s ordinance on sexual violence against women an “eyewash” and “mockery” of the Justice Verma Committee recommendations, several women’s groups protested at Jantar Mantar here on Monday, demanding complete implementation of the committee’s recommendations. To keep up the pressure on the government, they have planned to hold a “people’s watch over Parliament” and a signature campaign from February 21, the beginning of the Budget session.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 was promulgated by President of India Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday.

“This ordinance is an eyewash because it is nothing but the government’s old discredited Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012 with some extra window dressing. They have diluted and left out all the strong recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee that actually reflected the idea of protecting women’s autonomy,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA).

“We want a Bill based on not the ordinance but on the Verma Committee’s recommendations. The ordinance continues to make excuses for certain powerful perpetrators of rape: it continues to ensure that certain institutions of power [marriage/police/army/judges/ magistrates/public servants/politicians] remain protected from prosecution for rape.”

She said the ordinance rejected the recommendation for ‘command responsibility’ in case of custodial rape by police or army, by which a superior officer should be held responsible if a junior officer committed rape or sexual assault.

The ordinance also did not accommodate the recommendation that no sanction be required to prosecute public servants accused of sexual violence.

The panel had wanted the AFSPA to be amended to do away with the requirement for sanction to prosecute an army officer accused of sexual violence. By rejecting such recommendations, the ordinance perpetuated impunity in rape and violence against women, Ms. Krishnan said.

“The ordinance refuses to include marital rape in the rape law — and it continues to give a lesser punishment for rape of a separated wife by a husband. It makes no move to implement the electoral reforms called for by Justice Verma, specifically against candidates and elected representatives accused of serious sexual offences,” she said.

The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) also protested against the ordinance. Sehba Farooqui, secretary of the AIDWA, argued that “instead of strengthening the law the ordinance will derail the actual issue as it has left out several vital and strong recommendations like the one on marital rape.”