The horrific gang-rape of December 16 sparked off a massive movement that brought us all on the streets to say ‘Enough is Enough’ and demand action to ensure women’s freedom from sexual violence and gender discrimination. In keeping with the spirit of the movement, the Justice Verma Committee came out with a path-breaking Report, with recommendations that, if implemented, would truly make women less vulnerable to violence. But, instead of implementing the Justice Verma Report, the Government has instead chosen to pass an ordinance that completely subverts the substance and spirit of the Verma recommendations!
The Budget Session of Parliament begins on February 21. The Government will seek to enact a law based on this shoddy and anti-women, anti-people ordinance – that will become a tool against women, girls and boys – rather than against perpetrators of sexual violence. Starting from February 21, let us gather in large numbers in a People’s Watch Over Parliament, to tell the Government and Parliament – we are watching you, and we demand a law as well as budgetary allocations based on the Justice Verma recommendations, not the eyewash of the ordinance!
The horrific gang-rape of December 16 sparked off a massive movement that brought us all on the streets to say ‘Enough is Enough’ and demand action to ensure women’s freedom from sexual violence and gender discrimination. In keeping with the spirit of the movement, the Justice Verma Committee came out with a path-breaking and historic Report, with recommendations that, if implemented, would truly make women less vulnerable to violence. But, instead of implementing the Justice Verma Report, your Government has instead chosen to pass an ordinance that completely subverts the substance and spirit of the Verma recommendations!
The Justice Verma Report is path-breaking because it asserted – and sought to protect – women’s autonomy and rights, to curb sexual violence, to ensure justice by removing the inbuilt patriarchal biases and protections for powerful people in the laws; and to ensure accountability for police and other institutions. The ordinance fails to do any of these things, rejecting Justice Verma’s recommendations in this regard.
The ordinance makes women more vulnerable than before, by saying that both men and women can be accused of sexual assault and rape. In future, whenever a woman files a complaint of rape, the accused will be able to file a counter-complaint of rape against her. The ordinance young people of the age 16-18 vulnerable to harassment by patriarchal forces, by making consensual sexual contact between them, an automatic case of ‘sexual assault.’ It justifies and legalises rape of a wife by her husband, but allows husbands to file complaints of sexual violence against wives!
It rejects Justice Verma’s recommendation that politicians against whom a charge sheet has been filed for sexual violence, be prevented from contesting elections; that no government permission be required to prosecute judges/magistrates/public servants/army officers who are accused of sexual violence; that a senior police or army officer who orders or knowingly allows a junior officer to rape a woman, face punishment for sexual assault. Under this ordinance, no Ruchika Girotra or Soni Sori (molested by a police officer), Geetika Sharma or Rupam Pathak (raped by MLAs), or Thangjam Manorama (raped by army personnel) can expect justice. Justice Verma has stipulated a punishment of 5 years imprisonment for failure to register an FIR or biased investigation, but the ordinance dilutes this to a mere 1 year. The ordinance continues to insult women by referring to sexual violence as ‘outraging modesty.’ It fails to ban the demeaning and anti-women medical ‘two-finger test,’ and so continues to allow the unjust question of a woman’s past sexual relationships to be brought into the rape trial. It fails to repeal Section 377 that criminalises sexual minorities.
We are deeply outraged at this shoddily-drafted, anti-woman, anti-people ordinance. This was not what people all over the country demanded, facing tear gas and water cannons on the streets. This does not honour the memory of the Delhi braveheart. This does tremendous injustice to the Justice Verma Committee, that worked night and day to produce a blueprint of what can make India truly a country committed to safeguarding equality, freedom, and dignity for all. And this does injustice to India’s women, who deserve to live in freedom without fear.
We, the people, demand that your government draft genuine, comprehensive, pro-women legislative changes based on the Justice Verma recommendations, and ensure that it is enacted in the coming Budget Session of Parliament. We demand budgetary allocations for rape crisis centres, more judges and courts to ensure speedier trials, safe houses for women facing violence in their homes, and forensic facilities. We want the Government’s Budget to spend on these things that women need – rather than gifting lakhs of crores to corporations as tax giveaways! We demand reform to ensure accountability of the police and judiciary, to ensure fair investigation and trial!