“Rape law changes welcome, yet an opportunity lost”

Published - May 02, 2013 01:42 am IST - NEW DELHI:

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Rashida Manjoo, addressing the media in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: S. Subramanium

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Rashida Manjoo, addressing the media in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: S. Subramanium

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Again Women, Rashida Manjoo, on Wednesday regretted that the amendments made to the rape laws in India did not fully reflect the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, set up in the aftermath of the December 16 gang rape that led to the death of a young girl in the national capital.

Addressing reporters at the conclusion of her visit to India, Ms. Manjoo welcomed the Centre’s speedy response after the rape and the legislative reforms based on the Verma Committee recommendations but said it was “an opportunity lost. The Verma Committee was a golden moment to examine whether legislative measures in India were sufficient.” India had an amazing Constitution that granted equality to all but the challenge was to enforce the provisions.

Hoping that India would bring in further legislative measures to address issues such as marital rape, age of consent and rights of transgender people and vulnerable groups, Ms. Manjoo said it was “unfortunate that the opportunity to establish a substantive and specific equality and non-discrimination rights legislative framework for women, to address de facto inequality and discrimination, and to prevent all forms of violence against women, was lost.’’

“Death penalty not a deterrent”

She said the speedy developments and also the adoption of a law and order approach to sexual wrongs, now included the death penalty for certain crimes against women. “This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework. The new approach fails to address the structural and root causes and consequences of violence against women, she added.

The Special Rapporteur said there was no proof that death penalty was a deterrent. “One needs to look at what purpose it [death penalty] would serve. The need is transformation of society and empowerment of women.’’

Despite the numerous positive developments, the unfortunate reality was that the rights of many women in India continued to be violated with impunity. Ms. Manjoo said she had received numerous submissions to suggest this, and also testimonies to say that mediation and compensation measures were often used as redress mechanisms to address cases of violence against women, thus “eroding accountability imperatives, and further fostering norms of impunity.”

Sexual violence and harassment in India were widespread, and perpetuated in public spaces, in the family and in the workplace.

Armed Forces Act

On the issue of conflict-related sexual violence, Ms. Manjoo said it was crucial to acknowledge that these violations occurred at the hands of both state and non-state actors.

The Special Rapporteur’s report would be officially submitted to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in June 2014.

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