Over a month after a vicious gang rape in New Delhi drew both global and national attention, a new report has identified a number of opportunities to address and reduce violence against women, ranging from legislative amendments to increased police accountability.
The three-member Verma Committee, formed by the government in December following both the rape and the ensuing public outrage, released its over 600 page report last week. In addition to highlighting the need for stricter implementation of existing laws, the report suggests changes to India’s criminal law. For example, the report states that marriage should not be deemed “a valid defence against the crimes of rape or sexual violation.” The report also identifies reforms in the domain of law enforcement, with an emphasis on ensuring accountability of police and other armed forces personnel.
On January 28, Indian politician and women’s rights activist Brinda Karat published an editorial in The Hindu celebrating the report, which she described as “a big step forward in the struggle for women’s rights.” However, Karat’s review was not entirely positive. Although the report recognizes issues of significant time lag in the prosecution of rape, with rape victims waiting up to 10 years or more for judgments in their cases, Karat criticized the Committee for failing to identify concrete steps “for a time-bound procedure for cases of rape or the setting up of fast track courts.”
In addition to identifying a number of avenues for reform, the report also contains criticism of previous government inaction. According to Karat, the report highlights previous initiatives which recommended measures that the government could take to alleviate violence against women, but alleges that these steps were never taken.
The report was also lauded by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. According to Pillay, “the Committee’s recommendations are grounded in a framework of rights, equality and non-discrimination, and represent a paradigm shift towards recognition of women as holders of rights, not just objects of protection.”
A link to the PDF of the full report can be found here: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/marriage-is-not-a-valid-defence-against-rape-says-committee/article4351148.ece