Thousands took their anger and outrage to the streets after a 23-year-old student was gang-raped in a moving bus on the night of December 16 in Delhi. The whole nation reels under the shock of the details of this gruesome crime, and mourns a braveheart. But we also stand resolute to make sure that this doesn’t repeat itself. As a first step we want laws ensuring safety for women to be scrutinized and amended. The following 15 points would be sent as suggestions from the general public to the Justice Verma Committee that has been set up to look into possible amendments to the criminal law to ensure speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault.
1) The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2012 needs to be revised to -- (a) remove the exception clause of ‘marital rape’ from the offence of rape and provide appropriate punishment for it and (b) include degrees of sexual assault with appropriate punishment for the different degrees of assault. The Bill, introduced in the Winter Session 2012 needs to be revised before it could be taken up for debate.
2. Ensure relevant amendments to Criminal Procedure Code and Law of Evidence are also enacted as suggested in the recommendations made by 172nd Law Commission Report on Rape Laws and the National Law Commission's recommendations for amending rape laws.
3. Ensure that the Workplace Sexual Harassment Bill is passed in the next session of the Parliament.
4. Each State to ensure gender balance throughout the ranks in police cadre and implement gender sensitization programs in all the police stations across the state.
5. Sexual violence cases to be heard by fast track courts. Setup fast track courts system across the country to hear all the pending cases of sexual violence against women.
6. Amend the Indian Evidence Act to alter aspects of criminal trial that delay proceedings - eg allow for video recording of evidence that can be later transcribed.
7. Implement zero-tolerance policy on non-registration of crime. Make non-registration of crimes against women a punishable offence.
8. Immediate consultations with Ministry of Human Resource and Development and the Ministry of Women and Child Development to evaluate the progress of the measures taken for gender sensitisation in schools and implement a holistic gender sensitisation program in schools across the country.
9. Professionalise the functioning of the National Commission for Women by ensuring that they have enough qualified members and the NCW has a say in policy making. For eg. NCW endorsed All India Democratic Women’s Association recommendations on amending rape laws in 2000 however the Criminal Law Amendment Bill was only tabled by Home Ministry in the Parliament 12 years later.
10. Professionalise legal aid cells and equip them with enough infrastructure and support to be able to effectively support pin cases of sexual violence against women.
11. State governments to set up rape crisis centres across the state with trained professionals to counsel victims and review central scheme for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims, as well as its implementation.
12. Awareness campaigns to enable safe environments for immediate reporting of rape and sexual assault and ensuring adequate protection for the survivors and witnesses.
13. Police training on forensics, the nature of evidence to be collected in rape cases, doing away with 2 finger tests or relying on a girls past sexual behaviour as well as gender sensitisation and workshops on what rape is - to be conducted by professionals.
14. Transfer Delhi Police to Delhi Government and not Home Ministry - it needs to be accountable to the people of Delhi and not diverted to 'VIP' security.
15. Time bound implementations of police reforms in keeping with the Supreme Court order, removal of political influence in suspensions and transfers, better pay, better surveillance and monitoring, and sensitisation on their role as public SERVANTS and not rulers.