(The Justice JS Verma committee was called on by the Indian government in the wake of Indian people's protests against the gang rape and murder of an Indian female student to submit recommendations for ending sexual and other violence against women. The committee's recommendations have been submitted today to the Indian parliament. Of particular note is the degree to which the committee targets changing, controlling, and holding police behavior to account as a key to solving the problem; something we urgently need to do here in the U.S., too...admin)
1. The equality of women, being integral to the Constitution, its denial is a sacrilege and a constitutional violation. Sustained constitutional violations mean that governance is not in accordance with the Constitution. A fortiori, all limbs of the State - the executive, the legislature as well as the judiciary -must respect women’s rights and must treat them in a non-discriminatory manner.
2. As a primary recommendation, all marriages in India(irrespective of the personal laws under which such marriages are solemnised) should mandatorily be registered in the presence of a magistrate, which magistrate will ensure that the marriage has been solemnised without any demand for dowry having been made and that the marriage has taken place with the full and free consent of both partners.
3. The manner in which the rights of women can be recognised can only be manifested when they have full access to justice and when the rule of law can be upheld in their favour. The proposed Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2012, should be modified as suggested, and to secure public confidence, be promulgated forthwith. Since the possibility of sexual assault on men, as well as homosexual, transgender and transsexual rape, is a reality the provisions have to be cognizant of the same.
4. In respect of certain categories of cases, such as those where the victim is in custody of persons in authority including police and armed personnel, certain statutory presumptions must apply under Section 114A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Every complaint of rape must be registered by the police and civil society should perform its duty to report any case of rape coming to its knowledge.
5. Any officer, who fails to register a case of rape reported to him, or attempts to abort its investigation, commits an offence which shall be punishable as prescribed. We have also taken into account offences of eve teasing, voyeurism, stalking as well as sexual assault and unsolicited sexual contact.
6. A special procedure for protecting persons with disabilities from rape, and requisite procedures for access to justice for such personsis also an urgent need. Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, which are necessary, have been suggested.
7. The protocols for medical examination of victims of sexual assaulthave also been suggested, which we have prepared on the basis of the best practices as advised by global experts in the fields of gynaecology and psychology. Such protocol based, professional medical examination is imperative for uniform practice and implementation.
8. The insensitivity of the police to deal with rape victims is well known. The police respect a patriarchal form of society, and have been unable to deal with extraordinary cases of humiliation and hardship caused by the khap panchayats, as is evident from various judgments of the Supreme Court. The police are involved in trafficking of children (including female children) and in drug trade.
To inspire public confidence, it is necessary that there must not only be prompt implementation of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh case, but also police officers with reputations of outstanding ability and character must be placed at the higher levels of the police force.
In the present context, and in view of the facts revealed to us, it is necessary that every police commissioner and director general of police of this country must be selected in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh’s case, who can lead by example. The leader makes all the difference. As such, all existing appointments need to be reviewed to ensure that the police force has the requisite moral vision.
9. It is settled law that every policeman is bound to obey the law and any order of a superior officer, which is contrary to law, is no defence for his illegal action, which may be a punishable offence.
Accordingly, any political interference or extraneous influence in the performance of the statutory duty by a policeman cannot be condoned.This principle has to be clearly understood by every member of the police force - their accountability is only to the law and to none else in the discharge of their duty. Dereliction of this duty has to be punished according to the service rules and applicable law.
10. Authentic figures of missing children in India are not available for obvious reasons of the complicity of law enforcement agencies. Children have been driven into forced labour, sex abuse, sexual exploitation as well as made victims of illegal organ trade. Our report includes the testimonies of children (whose identities have been concealed for their safety) to verify facts from their personal experience. As a small gesture, this Committee has (at its own cost) taken necessary steps for proper rehabilitation and education of one of these children, payment of the minimum wages due to the said child, her safe passage and reintegration with her family, psychotherapeutic intervention, and to fulfil her educational aspirations.The Committee expects similar treatment by the State of all such deprived children
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