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Mockery of Justice Verma Report

Rehanism IF-Dazzler
Rehanism
Rehanism

Joined: 07 August 2010
Posts: 3458

Posted: 03 February 2013 at 2:34pm | IP Logged

The UPA Govt, in a Cabinet meeting held on 1 February, has introduced an ordinance that it claims will address the most urgent concerns on sexual violence. In fact, the Government has been completely reluctant to acknowledge and implement the Justice Verma Committee recommendations: the PM refused to accept it from Justice Verma, the Ministry of Home Affairs removed it from their website, the Govt never adopted any transparent process of discussion to decide the way forward on implementing the recommendations, rather they said Justice Verma 'exceeded his brief'. Now, they claim that their ordinance has 'implemented' the Justice Verma recommendations. Is this true?

The fact is that the Government's ordinance is a mockery of the letter and spirit of the Justice Verma recommendations. Why? Let us take a closer look.       

 

The Justice Verma report radically redefined the way in which sexual violence is understood, because it firmly called for safeguarding women's autonomy – including her sexual autonomy. This means that sexual violence should be understood as any sexual contact that is forced on a woman unless she has explicitly said or indicated 'Yes' to it. It is irrelevant whether she is married or not, or whether the perpetrator is a policeman, judge, magistrate, public servant, politician, or army officer: the accused/perpetrator cannot enjoy impunity in any case! The ordinance completely mocks this basic principle.

 

The ordinance is nothing but the Govt's old discredited Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012 with some extra window dressing. What's WRONG with this ordinance?

 

  • Rejecting Justice Verma's recommendations to ensure gender-specificity (male) of the perpetrator of rape and gender-neutrality for victims, the ordinance makes rape a 'gender-neutral' crime. This means that a man can accuse a woman of rape!!
  • The ordinance criminalises consensual sexual activity between 16-18 years; such sexual activity, even by consent, will automatically be seen as rape. This will give a handle to the moral-policing brigades and communities who harass inter-caste and inter-religious friendships and relationships, by branding young boys as 'rapists.' See what is happening in Mangalore now: Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini brigades have been entering ice-cream parlours, rounding up teenage couples and handing them over to the police; the Chhattisgarh police in Bhilai is doing the same. Such forces will get a handle to use the rape law against boyfriends.
  • 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. The Govt's press release about the ordinance shamelessly says that "Verma criminalises marital non-consensual sexual intercourse" but the Govt will not do so! So, according to the Govt, not every 'non-consensual' sexual act is rape; a husband is allowed to force sex on his wife! Even if the wife is separated from her husband, the law will be 'understanding' and 'lenient' towards him if he rapes her, since she was 'once his wife'! This means that the ordinance continues to see the wife as the husband's sexual property, rather than as a person is her own right, with the same right to say YES and NO to sex as any unmarried woman! We know domestic violence is common in marriage: can't the husband who batters his wife, also rape his wife?! Our govt is saying he will have the right to rape his wife!  
  • The ordinance rejects Justice Verma's recommendation of the principle of 'command responsibility' in case of custodial rape by police or army: i.e the principle that a superior officer will be held responsible if a junior officer commits rape or sexual assault. This principle is crucial if one considers the manifold cases of custodial rape like that of Soni Sori – where a senior officer Ankit Garg ordered his juniors to sexually torture her; or a case like Kunan Poshpora, where an entire village of women in Kashmir was gang-raped by the Army – something that could not have taken place without the awareness and blessings, even orders, of higher officers!        
  • The ordinance fails to include sexual violence in the context of caste/communal massacres in the category of 'aggravated sexual assault' – as recommended by Justice Verma report (p 220). 
  •  The ordinance rejects the Justice Verma's recommendation that no sanction be required to prosecute judges/magistrates/public servants who are accused of sexual violence; and similarly that the AFSPA be amended to do away with the requirement for sanction to prosecute an army officer accused of sexual violence. Justice Verma's argument was clear: no army officer nor any judge or public servant can claim to have raped in the course of his duty! The ordinance, by rejecting Justice Verma's recommendations, ensures impunity for powerful rapists. Similarly the ordinance makes no move to implement the electoral reforms called for by Justice Verma, specifically against candidates and elected representatives accused of serious sexual offences.
  • The ordinance introduces death penalty in the rarest of the rare cases of rape. This is a deliberate red herring. For one thing, death sentence is already a possibility in cases where rape is compounded with murder. By introducing it in the rape law, even Congress leader and advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, speaking on NDTV, expressed the 'personal opinion' that this would further lower the conviction rate because it would deter the court from sentencing! Currently, let us remember that the Courts are reluctant even to give the minimum 7 year sentence for rape, and keep finding excuses to reduce it to as low as 3! Will the same Courts not become even more reluctant to convict, if conviction will mean death? 
  • The Justice Verma report recommended imprisonment for 5 years for a policeman who failed to follow the law (i.e registering FIRs or proper investigation); the ordinance admits for a jail term of just one year for this offence.
  • The ordinance completely ignores the recommendations of changes in medico-legal protocol, including prohibition of the two-finger test and ensuring rape crisis centres and proper medical care and examination of rape survivors; as well as police reform, public transport and other measures. 

 

The ordnance makes of mockery of all those recommendations of the Justice Verma committee that actually reflected the idea of protecting women's autonomy: be it a 16-year old girl who has sexual contact with her boyfriend to a married woman who says no to her husband, the ordnance just fails to accept a woman's own autonomy and consent as crucial to deciding if rape occurred or not! The ordnance 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.

We refuse to accept this eyewash! We demand full implementation of the Justice Verma Committee Report!    

 

We can defeat the Govt's ploy to dilute and subvert the JVC recommendations only by being on the streets and continuing to fight! 

Bekhauf Azaadi has called for a protest against the ordinance and demanding implementation of JVC on 4 Feb at 2 pm at Jantar Mantar. Please do join. There will be several other protest and campaign actions in the days to come, please do join each of them, and make sure the Govt does not get away with betraying our movement and the JVC Report.

http://www.facebook.com/notes/kavita-krishnan/why-the-govts-ordinance-is-an-eyewash-and-a-mockery-of-the-justice-verma-recomme/10151444019415115

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LovesLowCultureperfectlystill

Rehanism IF-Dazzler
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LovesLowCulture Senior Member
LovesLowCulture
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Posted: 07 February 2013 at 6:13pm | IP Logged
This makes me so mad! Can't believe I didn't see it earlier. 
Although, if someone has time to clarify, why is it wrong to make rape a gender neutral crime. There have been a lot of cases where young boys and gay men have been the victims of rape. 
_Angie_ IF-Rockerz
_Angie_
_Angie_

Joined: 21 February 2008
Posts: 9888

Posted: 08 February 2013 at 9:53am | IP Logged
The ordinance does not give any assurance about implementation. Certainty of conviction is more effective tha the severity of punishment. There is no dearth of legal provision s in the country. Its just that they seldom get implemented soon enough! Framing of new laws that do not get enacted upon is not going to serve any purpose.
Rehanism IF-Dazzler
Rehanism
Rehanism

Joined: 07 August 2010
Posts: 3458

Posted: 08 February 2013 at 2:38pm | IP Logged
Originally posted by _Angie_

The ordinance does not give any assurance about implementation. Certainty of conviction is more effective tha the severity of punishment. There is no dearth of legal provision s in the country. Its just that they seldom get implemented soon enough! Framing of new laws that do not get enacted upon is not going to serve any purpose.

The ordinance is basically an eyewash..It has nothing to do with Justice Verma Report. In fact it has managed to bypass the whole spirit of the report and its recommendations..The very reason why Justice Verma report was applauded from all corners was that it delved deeper than ever and sought to address the root of the problem - rather than giving in to cries of the mob for death penalty and castration. There is no reason NOT to recognize/criminalize marital rape whereas treat a consensual intercourse between a 16 year old girl and a boy as statutory rape. The whole idea of consent and woman's autonomy over her body has been thrown out of the window.

Rehanism IF-Dazzler
Rehanism
Rehanism

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Posts: 3458

Posted: 15 February 2013 at 1:48am | IP Logged

Comparison- Ordinance Vs JVC


How UPA Govt Ordinance Undermines the Very Spirit of Justice Verma Committee Recommendations: A Comparative Analysis

The JVC Report
The Govt's Ordinance

1
For the first time in India, spelt out a constitutional Bill of Rights for women, and the means to ensure those fundamental rights to equality, freedom, and autonomy

Ignores the Bill of Rights 

2
Recognised that sexual violence is not an act of sex or lust: it is an act of patriarchal power. Therefore, to reduce sexual violence, we must safeguard women's freedom and rights; and to ensure that perpetrators are punished, we must undo the impunity and protection for such offences that is built into the laws and into our system   

Maintains the inbuilt ways in which laws protect powerful perpetrators

3
Recognised women's rights to autonomy: including her sexual autonomy and her right to choose her partners, friends, and spouses. Recommended changing the archaic and anti-women vocabulary of laws. Understood sexual violence as a violation of a woman's bodily integrity and her dignity, rather than as 'outraging modesty', 'robbing honour' or bringing 'shame'.

Has many clauses that go AGAINST women's autonomy and freedom, and retains the anti-women wording of 'outraging modesty' instead of molestation or sexual violence

4
Redefined the meaning of 'consent': stating that unless a woman indicates 'Yes' to sex, either by word or by gesture, no one can 'assume' that she consented. In the present system, many rape cases go unpunished because a woman is 'presumed' to have consented unless she has marks of injury on her body or on the body of the accused. She is 'presumed' to have consented if she is married to the accused. A girl is 'presumed' to be incapable of consent to sexual contact if she is 16-18 years old, even if her partner is of a similar young age, unless she is married to him. Moreover, she is 'presumed' to be lying if the man she accuses is a public servant; a judge; a magistrate; or an army officer; that is why, in such cases, prior permission from the Govt is needed in order to prosecute the accused. Justice Verma sought to challenge and change these in-built, wrong assumptions that go against justice for women. 

Accepted the changed definition of 'consent' as recommended by JVC, BUT retained many of the substantial provisions that fail to recognise and respect women's 'consent' – in case of married women, 16-18 year-old girls, and women who complain against the powerful people such as judges, magistrates, police officers, bureaucrats, and army officers.

5
Expanded the meaning of sexual assault to cover a range of forms of sexual violence: from sexual harassment to stalking to voyeurism (making MMS etc) to acid-throwing to rape by insertion of an object or a male body part. Recommended higher and more severe punishment for various forms of sexual violence. 

Accepted expanded definition and scope of sexual assault, and more severe punishment

6
Recognised that the victim of sexual violence could be 'gender-neutral' (i.e could be female/male/transgender/hijra etc), but that the perpetrator is male.

Makes the perpetrator/accused in the rape law gender-neutral – i.e both men and women can be accused of rape. This will mean that if a woman files a rape complaint against a man, he can file a counter-complaint of rape against her!

7
Recognised that young people between the age of 16-18 do, naturally, indulge in sexual experimentation, and that such sexual contact between young people by mutual consent cannot automatically be termed 'rape'.

All mutual sexual contact between young girls and boys of the age group 16-18 is automatically termed as 'rape'. This means that innocent young boys will face rape charges, for no crime except that they befriended young girls of their own age. And a generation of young boys who grow up without learning to see girls as equals and as friends, will be more likely to be violent towards women as adults.

8
Recognises that rape happens even within marriage. Asserted that sexual contact, even within a marriage, must be with a woman's consent; a wife is not her husband's property, and cannot be 'expected' to have sex with her husband, against her will. Therefore, recommended removal of the existing exemption of 'marital rape' from the rape law. Upheld the principle that in the case of rape and sexual assault, the relationship of the accused with the complainant will not be the basis for denying her claim of rape; neither can it be the basis for a more lenient sentence. Therefore recommended deletion of the provision of lenient sentence in case of rape of a legally separated wife by a husband.

Legitimises marital rape – i.e forced sexual contact by husband against wife's consent. Therefore strengthens the idea of the wife as the 'sexual property' of the husband. Retains the provision of lesser sentence (minimum sentence of 2 years) for a husband who rapes a legally separated wife! Therefore, even if a wife has taken the pains to separate herself from an abusive husband, the law will make excuses for him if he rapes her, on the grounds that she was once his wife, and so he can be excused for thinking of her as his property! Not only that, according to the ordinance, wives cannot accuse husbands of sexual assault – but because of the 'gender-neutral' provision, husbands can accuse wives of sexual assault! Not only that, husbands cannot get life sentence or death sentence for sexual assault even of a separated wife, but a wife accused by a husband of sexual assault, can under the ordinance get life sentence and even death sentence!

9
Sought to get rid of protections for powerful offenders. Recommended that politicians against whom a charge sheet has been filed for sexual violence, be prevented from contesting elections. Recommended that no sanction/prior permission be required to prosecute judges/magistrates/public servants who are accused of sexual violence; and similarly that the AFSPA be amended to do away with the requirement for sanction/prior permission to prosecute an army officer accused of sexual violence. Justice Verma's argument is clear: no army officer nor any judge or public servant can claim to have raped in the course of his duty. As in any case, the Court can be the best judge, based on available evidence, of whether a complaint is false or true.  

Continues to protect the powerful. No provisions against candidates charged with sexual violence. Retains the requirement of 'prior permission' for prosecution of public servants/judges/magistrates/army officers. So, no Ruchika Girotra (molested by a police officer), Geetika Sharma or Rupam Pathak (raped by MLAs), Thangjam Manorama (raped by army personnel) can expect justice!

10
Recommended changes in the law based on the principle of 'command responsibility' in case of custodial rape by police or army: i.e the principle that a superior officer will be held responsible if he orders or knowingly allows a junior officer to commit rape or sexual assault against a woman who is in custody, or is in a conflict area. This principle is very important if one looks at the rape of Soni Sori (Chhattisgarh SP Ankit Garg ordered his men to sexually torture her) or the rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama in Manipur in the custody of personnel of the Assam Rifles. Such rapes could not have occurred without the knowledge and explicit orders/tacit consent of senior officers. Given the widespread prevalence of sexual violence in conflict areas, the JVC also recommended a review of the AFSPA, which is encouraging such violence. That AFSPA in any case has a provision for periodic review, which has however not been done.     

Senior police/army officers will not be investigated or punished for custodial rapes that are committed at their orders or with their knowledge in custody by their junior officers.

11
Recommended changes in the existing medical investigation protocol for rape survivor. Recommended prohibition of the demeaning two-finger test and other forms of medical examination that investigate women's past sexual history. Also recommended a protocol to ensure sensitive medical care of a rape survivor.

Does not prohibit 'two-finger test,' whereby a doctor puts two fingers into a rape survivor's body to check if she is 'habituated to sex.' In fact, the ordinance's definition of 'rape' (Section 375) legitimises this test, by stating that penetration or touching of private parts 'for medical purposes' (without specifying the need to obtain prior consent of the patient) will not be considered rape. The rape definition in the ordinance also, strangely, justifies penetration of the body for 'hygienic' purposes – so now, many rapists can try and explain away rape as a lesson in hygiene!          

12
Recommended more judges, more courts to ensure speedier trials and timely justice; also changes in judicial procedures to make rape trials gender-just.   

Accepts changes in judicial procedure, but does nothing in the direction of speedier justice

13
Did not recommend death sentence. 

Includes death sentence for rapes that result in death or permanent vegetative state of the victim. In the case of death of the victim, the provision of death sentence already exists and is nothing new. Death sentence for causing permanent vegetative state is dangerous for women: since the risk of hanging for murder and rape are the same, it is likely to become an incentive for the rapist to make sure to kill the victim so that she cannot testify against him.

14
Clearly made the Govt responsible for the failure to protect women from violence
a)     recommended 5 years imprisonment for police personnel who fail to do their duty (i.e filing FIRs, pursuing a fair investigation), recommended comprehensive police reforms 
b)     recommended setting up of well-equipped Rape Crisis Centres; safe houses for women facing violence; forensic investigation; and juvenile justice homes
c)      Spelt out the Govt's duty to ensure safe and adequate public transport, and safety at bus stops and on streets, and a range of other governance measures.    

No efforts to ensure police accountability or governance;
a)     Punishment for failure to register FIR or biased investigation is just a token 1 year; no police reforms
b)     No provisions for rape crisis centres, forensic facilities, safe houses, juvenile homes etc
c)      No governance measures such as public transport etc to ensure safer public spaces for women   


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_Angie_

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