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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Crimes Against Women: Reports, Fast Track, Ordinance And Reality!


The horrific Delhi Gangrape was committed on the night of 16th December, 2012 on a moving public bus and over the last one and half months some progress has indeed been made. We must call this as ‘progress’ for the simple reason that any new measure or laws on crimes against women in this male-dominated country has to be welcomed as a step in the right direction, because precious little has been done in this field for decades or even centuries. At this moment disappointment or disagreement over the new measures must not be politicized like in fight against corruption where various activist organizations politicized the issue so dividedly that the fight was almost lost.

Within one week the Justice JS Verma committee was appointed and in just about a month it had submitted the report suggesting sweeping changes including in marital rapes, sexual crimes by military personnel and special powers enjoyed by armed forces. The report though did not recommend death penalty for rapists and was silent on amending the juvenile justice system. In just around a week from the submission of this report the Government of India promulgated an Ordinance on rape laws in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Sing, to be exact on Friday the 1st of February, to fast-rack amendments to criminal laws. The Ordinance went beyond the Justice Verma report upholding death penalty for extreme cases and proposed to replace ‘rape’ by ‘sexual assaults’ to expand the definition of crimes against women trying to include voyeurism, stalking, inappropriate words or deeds and other crimes as suggested by the Verma Committee. The Ordinance though did not accept suggestions regarding marital rapes and armed forces special powers.

Women activists belonging to several organizations rejected Government’s Ordinance on the ground of its not accepting certain Verma recommendations what they termed crucial issues. But these same activists preferred to be silent when the Verma Committee did not address capital punishment or juvenile justice issue. Just because the ruling coalition is involved in issuing this Ordinance the activists should not cry opposition, instead they should welcome the other strong measures adopted for the first time in the country. The Young India must see to it that nobody politicizes and highjack the issue in these early hours. We had mentioned in the beginning about what happened to the anti-corruption movement due to rampant politics designed just to corner the Government.

Within ten days of hearing arguments over charges against five accused of the Delhi Gangrape the fast-track court in Delhi framed charges yesterday. The trial is set to begin from Monday. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi visited the victim’s family last night in Delhi and spent over an hour with them assuring extreme punishment for all accused. The family reiterated the demand not to spare the juvenile accused that was reportedly the most brutal. 

The reality remains despite the progress, because you cannot change a legacy of centuries overnight. The Juvenile Justice Board declared the 6th accused as minor based on that brute’s school certificates that suggested his age is still less than 18. He was capable of committing the worst possible adult crime and as per our laws he is likely to be kept in the remand home till he attains 18 years of age and then possibly released. As if the ‘minor’ brute has been put under a probationary period to be able to commit more ‘mature’ crimes later. The five accused too pleased not-guilty as per our laws fast or slow.

The country needs a fast-track cure for the gender bias most urgently.

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