A public statement by progressive women's groups and individuals: Condemn sexual violence, oppose death penalty
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We, the undersigned, demand the following:
• Greater dignity, equality, autonomy and rights for women and girls from a society that should stop questioning and policing their actions at every step.
• Immediate relief in terms of legal, medical, financial and psychological assistance and long-term rehabilitation measures must be provided to survivors of sexual assault.
• Provision of improved infrastructure to make cities safer for women, including well-lit pavements and bus stops, help lines and emergency services.
• Effective registration, monitoring and regulation of transport services (whether public, private or contractual) to make them safe, accessible and available to all.
• Compulsory courses within the training curriculum on gender sensitisation for all personnel employed and engaged by the State in its various institutions, including the police.
• That the police do its duty to ensure that public spaces are free from harassment, molestation and assault. This means that they themselves have to stop sexually assaulting women who come to make complaints. They have to register all FIRs and attend to complaints. CCTV cameras should be set up in all police stations and swift action must be taken against errant police personnel.
• Immediate setting up of fast track courts for rape and other forms of sexual violence all across the country. State governments should operationalise their creation on a priority basis. Sentencing should be done within a period of six months.
• The National Commission for Women has time and again proved itself to be an institution that works against the interests of women. NCW’s inability to fulfil its mandate of addressing issues of violence against women, the problematic nature of the statements made by the Chairperson and its sheer inertia in many serious situations warrants that the NCW role be reviewed and audited as soon as possible.
• The State acknowledges the reality of custodial violence against women in many parts of the country, especially in Kashmir, North-East and Chhattisgarh. There are several pending cases and immediate action should be taken by the government to punish the guilty and to ensure that these incidents of violence are not allowed to be repeated.
• Regarding the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012, women’s groups have already submitted detailed recommendations to the Home Ministry. We strongly underline that the Bill must not be passed in its current form because of its many serious loopholes and lacuna. Some points:
- There has been no amendment to the flawed definition of consent under Sec 375IPC and this has worked against the interest of justice for women.
- The formulation of the crime of sexual assault as gender neutral makes the identity of the perpetrator/accused also gender neutral. We demand that the definition of perpetrator be gender-specific and limited to men. Sexual violence also targets transgender people and legal reform must address this.
- In its current form, the Bill does not recognise the structural and graded nature of sexual assault, based on concepts of hurt, harm, injury, humiliation and degradation. The Bill also does not use well-established categories of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and sexual offences.
- It does not mention sexual assault by security forces as a specific category of aggravated sexual assault. We strongly recommend the inclusion of perpetration of sexual assault by security forces under Sec 376(2).
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