Agency for all-round support of rape victims must: study

Agency for all-round support of rape victims must: study

Rape victims need a specialised agency to get single-window, comprehensive support services right from filing the FIR till the end of the trial.

The report of a study released by the Union law ministry also underlined the need to address “vulnerabilities in other aspects of their lives”, besides helping them fix the damages caused by the incident.

“(The agency) is necessary to facilitate the victim’s full participation in the criminal justice machinery... it must have the expertise and training in sexual and gender-based violence,” said the report, prepared by the Partners for Law in Development.

Besides filing an FIR, the agency is envisaged to handhold victims through the medical examination, treatment, counselling and applying for compensation.

It could also monitor the trial and coordinate with the investigating agencies.
The study, held under the aegis of the Department of Justice and United Nations Development Programme, also called on the need for the victim’s daily deposition in the case to avoid hasty conclusion of the trial. “The current statutory stipulation of completing the trial within a period of two months is unrealistic, given the organic lifetime of the trial.”

“Hastily concluding trials within an unrealistic timeline is inimical to the fair trial rights of the accused. It is important, therefore, to not delineate a mandatory time limit to complete the trial, but instead, strive to complete it within a reasonable timeframe.”

It also called for coordinating with agencies linked to the trial such as the forensic science lab, besides increasing case docket in at least two cases under observation.

Completing the deposition of the “prosecutrix” (victim) on a daily basis, right from the beginning of the trial, would ensure superior testimony since there is less time lapse between the incident and the trial, the report said, adding that this would also reduce chances of pressure on the victim from the accused during the trial to change her testimony.

The study also suggested routing of questions to the victim through the trial’s presiding officer (judge) to prevent sexually explicit questions from the defence council aimed at causing embarrassment or insinuate consent.

The study, conducted on the direction of the Delhi High Court with a sample size of 16 cases from the capital, called for a witness protection programme with the help of support persons since the accused are known to the victims in most cases.

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