Feb 2: Women’s Groups Reject Rape Law Ordinance

February 2, 2013

http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=788710

Leading women organisations today rejected the ordinance on sexual crimes against women terming it as “complete betrayal” of people’s faith in the government and urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to sign it.

“The ordinance is a complete betrayal of the people’s faith. We are alarmed at the complete lack of transparency displayed by the government in proposing the ordinance as an emergency measure,” women rights activist Vrinda Gover said.

The women activists, representing a number of organisations including Jagori, All India Progressive Women’s Association and Partners for Law and Development, slammed the government for coming out with the ordinance when Parliament session is just three weeks away and urged the President not to sign the it.

“We are alarmed at the complete lack of transparency shown by the government…. We call upon the President not to sign such an ordinance,” the group said.

Kavita Krishnan, secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) termed the ordinance as “an absolute mockery” of Justice Verma panel’s recommendations.

“We were alarmed to see the ordinance as it ignored many recommendations of that committee. The government has stealthily passed this ordinance without sharing it with the public and without actually debating and discussing it. All the recommendations than can actually strike at the heart of impunity have been dropped,” she said.

The Union Cabinet yesterday cleared an ordinance providing for tough punishment including death sentence if a rape victim dies or is left in vegetative state.

Krishnan said women groups will hold protest on Monday to oppose the government action.

“The government acted stealthily, passing the ordinance without sharing it with the public and without debating and discussing it,” Krishnan said.

The group representing these organisations said, “The present piecemeal and fragmented ordinance can only serve to sabotage the intention of providing recourse to victims of violence. Some significant amendments concerning culpability of the state, punishment to officers, including those with command responsibility, the issue of bringing the army personnel under the jurisdiction of criminal law, have been excluded from the ordinance.”

Among the organisations represented were Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Joint Women’s Programme, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, Muslim Women’s Forum and Young Women’s Christian Association of India, All India Democratic Women’s Association, Guild of Service and National Federation Of Indian Women.

The ordinance, based on recommendations of Justice J S Verma Committee and going beyond, proposes to replace the word ‘rape’ with ‘sexual assault’ to expand the definition of all types sexual crimes against women.

It also proposes enhanced punishment for other crimes against women like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch and brings into its ambit ‘marital rape’

The group said the government should have adopted a holistic approach to the Verma Committee report, which is comprehensive, and multifaceted.

The group said violence suffered by women in conflict situations are also exempted by the government in the ordinance.

“Issues of sexual autonomy, the rights of women not be raped within marriage, the concerns of those with alternative sexualities, have been ignored. The discussions around the death penalty which led to the Verma committee not including it in the recommendations have not been considered,” it added

The women activists said while the Verma Committee recommended that rape should be made gender specific, this has not been accepted in the ordinance, which “dilutes the seriousness” of the crime against women substantially.

“Women’s organisations were also petitioning the Government to strengthen certain provisions to ensure time bound trial, proper rehabilitation, and inclusion of aggravated assault for crimes against the oppressed castes and classes. The additional exploitation faced by dalit adivasis, economically backward sections should also be included,” it said.