Activists slam govt on gender laws

Female rights proponents protest on first day of Parliament session

To keep an eye on the ongoing Parliament session, which is scheduled to debate the anti-rape law, students and women rights activists gathered at Jantar Mantar on Thursday.

They demanded Parliament to enact a law against rape and sexual violence based on Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations. To earmark funds in budget for rape crisis centres, rehabilitation and compensation for victims of rape and acid attacks were their other demands.

Surabhi Kaul, a Jawaharlal Nehru University student said they do not want government’s eyewash ordinance on anti-rape, which does not include important provisions like a marital rape law.

“There is a section, which claims that marital rape provision will not work in rural set up. It does not mean that there should not be a law on this at all,” Kaul said.

The students also questioned the gender neutral law in the ordinance and called it a joke on women’s rights.  “We are shocked that the ordinance has introduced gender neutrality for rape and sexual assault, making it possible for men to accuse women of rape.
However, women cannot do the same. We do not want this joke to be played on women when they are demanding justice,” another student said. The protesters also demanded resignation of politicians accused of crimes against women. “Rajya Sabha deputy Speaker P J Kurien should resign for his involvement in the Suryanelli scandal,” added Shukla. The protesters, under the banner Bekhauf Azaadi, showed dismay over a clause in the ordinance, which automatically brand consensual sex in the age group of 16 to 18 years as sexual assault.

“We do not want a law that can brand a teenage boy as a sexual offender for holding hands with a girl of his own age. We do not want a law that strengthens the hands of khap panchayats and the moral-policing brigades that terrorise young people who befriend each other,” said an activist.

Deletion of Section 377 (IPC) that criminalises same-sex relationships was another demand raised by the protesters.

Their other demands include to recognise rapes during communal and caste massacres as aggravated sexual assault, with provision of severe punishment, ban on two-finger medical test for rape victims, an end to protective shields for powerful people accused of rape citing examples of victims like  Ruchika Girotra, to Thangjam Manorama, to Geetika Sharma and Rupam Pathak.

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