This is the mail I sent to Justice J.S.Verma who would head the 3 member committe of jurists formed to suggest amendments to criminal law to sternly deal with sexual assault cases. The committee, which includes the former Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, Leila Seth, and the former Solicitor-General, Gopal Subramaniam, has asked all stakeholders to send their suggestions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or through fax at 011-23092675. According to the Hindu report dated yesterday “ the committee has urged the public in general and particularly eminent jurists, legal professionals, NGOs, women’s groups and civil society to share “their views, knowledge and experience suggesting possible amendments in the criminal and other relevant laws to provide for quicker investigation, prosecution and trial, as also enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of an extreme nature against women.” Do send in your suggestions about the measures to be taken if you have any. Here is mine.
In the wake of the recent case of gang rape in Delhi, the entire nation has been demanding stringent laws to curb the atrocities against women. As a woman myself, I too want the government to take immediate action and provide better for the safety of women. The following are what I, as a citizen demand the government to do for the safety of women in this country.
1. Setting up of fast track courts for the trials of rape cases throughout the country. These courts must be present at the zilla level and must be approachable even by victims in the most remote rural areas of India.
2. Increasing the number of personnel in the police, assigning more number of policemen with the task of guarding the locality that falls under the limits of each police station. This work of guarding the area must be carried out throughout the day.
3. The police men who are assigned such outside duty must be given sufficient perks and incentives as encouragement for the work that they do. And the rules must be such that these police men can not be asked to do any other work such as protection of political leaders instead of guarding the city.
4. The police must be given training on how to be sensitive and sensible in cases of harrasment or any crime for that matter which is directed at women.
5. All schools (government and private) must be made to include as part of their curriculum lessons on the rights of a woman and training programmes that teach a child how to respect women. In such training programmes, the parents must also be included and imparted training on how to bring up their children as individuals who respect women, and if the parents are found to be lacking in respect for women themselves, counselling must be imparted to them as part of this programme.
6. Every victim of rape must be given an aid of Rs.5,00,000. In addition to this, the State must give her a job opportunity in a State run establishment or let her pursue a course of her choice in a State run or aided university, or both depending on what she wants.
7. It must be made a law that the media while reporting developments in a rape case in the days following the incident, do not continuously repeat the words that that victim was raped. For ex: In the Delhi rape case, it is sufficient if the media simply mentioned the Delhi rape case. They do not have to keep repeating the gang rape of 23 year old girl each time they report it. She has been raped once. It is not necessary that these words be repeated each time it is reported of. The number of times such words are used must be limited to 3 days from the time it is reported of.
8. In an obvious case of rape or even harassment, the police must be given the power to file the complaint themselves and carry on the proceedings and not wait for the victim to give the statement.
9. Death penalty must be awarded in every case of rape as opposed to applying it only in the rarest of rare cases of rape. The reason I suggest so is because the rarest of rare doctrine is used to gauge only the circumstances pertaining to the crime and the nature of the crime itself. But we fail to recognise that whether a woman is subjected to a rape or gang rape or an extremely brutal gang rape, end of the day, the pain and suffering that the victim has to go through is still cruel. Our government must understand that unlike a crime of murder, a rape has implications on the victim physically, biologically, mentally and socially. She has to live through it the rest of her life. Please take a victim oriented approach to rape is all I am asking you.
Also, if you have noticed, this Delhi case has induced fear in the hearts of all people alike – women, men and even children. A society living in fear is not a healthy sign. The only way this can be set right is by awarding death sentence to rapists – all cases of rape.
I do not agree with some people who say that awarding death penalty shall reduce conviction rates since most rapes are committed by people known to the victim such as relatives. If a rape is committed by a relative, the victim shall still be pressurised to not complain to the police even if the punishment was life imprisonment, fearing society and other such factors that might stop her from reporting it had the punishment been death sentence.
I hope these suggestions are taken seriously and are included as part of your recommendations, since as a woman and as a citizen I find these absolutely necessary. We do not want to be ashamed of being born in India or scared to have a daughter in the future.