Women's groups reject ordinance, threaten agitation

Demand full report implementation

Women’s organisations and the Left parties have rejected the ordinance to amend anti-rape laws and requested the President not to sign it.

The groups have also threatened to hit the streets if the ordinance becomes law. Alleging that the ordinance has been brought to dilute the Justice Verma Committee report, the women’s group demanded implementation of the report in letter and spirit.

“We demand that the parliamentary process, including the standing committee process be upheld, for this is the place where we, as citizens of this country, have the right to be heard,” said social activist Farah Naqvi. 

Women’s groups are objecting to provisions like making anti-sexual laws gender neutral, keeping marital rape outside the purview of the Act, impunity to police and public servants and the death penalty.

“We are told that virtually all the recommendations that we and others had hailed as signs of a paradigm shift in understanding violence against women, all the proposals that can actually strike at the heart of impunity, have been dropped", said All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) leader Kavita Krishnan. 

“These include recognition in law of marital rape, new provisions on the offence of breach of command responsibility, non-requirement of sanction for prosecuting a member of security forces accused of sexual assault and rape, provision for trying them under ordinary criminal law for sexual crimes and change in definition of consent to any sexual act,” added advocate Vrinda Grover.

Referring to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Grover said the ordinance refers to sexual violence being essential to maintain the integrity of the country. They also expressed surprise over making sexual assault laws gender neutral. 

“We are shocked to learn that the ordinance introduces a gender neutral perpetrator for sexual assault, suggesting that both women and men could potentially be charged with the offence. Rape, as we know, is a crime largely defined as male violence against women, with absolutely no evidence of women as perpetrators. This is in disregard to the Justice Verma recommendations and totally unacceptable,” said leading women rights lawyer Madhu Mehra.

Activists further said the Verma Committee had not recommended death penalty, but suggested harsher punishment.  Saying that the government’s decision to show that it has accepted the public demand may trigger another  confrontation, the women’s groups have pledged support to the anti-ordinance stir.

Joining the chorus, the CPM also criticised the government for bringing the ordinance when Parliamentary session will begin soon. “The ordinance rejects the Verma Committee recommendations on issues like making rape a gender specific crime in the law, on increasing the punishment to public servants guilty of dereliction of duty, of increasing the punishment and also guaranteed compensation for victims of acid attacks and is highly selective about the other recommendations,” said the CPM. 

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