|On December 16, 2012, five Indian men from Delhi brutally assaulted and gang-raped 23-year old Nirbhaya (nick name; real name has not been disclosed by Indian authorities). She died thirteen days later in Singapore.|
In Justice Verma’s own words in a televised news conference; "We have submitted the report in 29 days…if we are able to do it in half the time available, the government, with its might and resources, should also act fast."
Of the provisions, Justice Verma’s bill will focus on harsher punishment for rapist, rape defined as a gender neutral issue and a commitment to process rape trials in an efficient and speedy manner. Justice Verma condemns the death penalty, instead issuing a strict seven year minimum to life time in jail for those who commit such heinous crimes.
Fortunately the urgency is not missed by Prime Minister Singh who reassured the public and Justice Verma that the proposed bill will be passed to the Cabinet and Parliament in time for the annual budget session.
However, as noted by Democracy in Development’s Isobel Coleman, "a handful of state-and national-level law makers currently in office in India face charges of rape or other crimes against women". As well, many women are advised by the police to not pursue any charges against their attackers.
Though some see Justice Verma’s commitment to women’s rights a step in the right direction, Isobel Coleman is still wary of the outcome. Mrs. Coleman recommends the need for vast cultural shift including a commitment to increase female literacy and eliminate child marriage. However, the out pour of demonstrations and the reaction of both men and women in India are evidence that times are changing. The question now being asked is if political affiliates are ready to conform to the growing demands of the middle class, which include a serious discussion on gender roles, caste hierarchy and corruption within the public sector.
Perhaps the largest issue when addressing women’s safety is the high rate of police apathy or disregard for sexual harassment and sexual assault. Arguably, Mrs. Coleman’s cultural requirements can be facilitate by a commitment by India’s national police service. With a national police service campaign directed at increasing awareness and reducing violence against women, the female population of India will feel more inclined to report their accusers. This will set precedence to public servants to act to protect women and address their pressing socio-economic concerns.
Indian women are subjected to neglect, violence and outright hatred, and for some women from the moment of birth. Indian gender sensitive abortion rates inexcusably yields more aborted female fetus deaths than male. The complete shift in culture is a sensitive topic to manoeuvre but there is no better time than the present to focus on the issues which plague female development. In the coming weeks the public will hear the government’s opinion of Justice Verma’s Criminal Law Amendment Bill. Nevertheless, the end to violence against women cannot stop with this legal provisions, as noted by Mrs. Coleman.
Isobel Coleman's Article
5 Charged with Nirbhaya Gang-Rape Face Maximum Sentence of Death
Ms. Mansharn Toor, Foundation for Democratic Advancement blogger and researcher with a background in international relations
Question to the Readers:
Is Isobel Coleman’s wariness of the resulting outcomes of Justice Verma’s Criminal Law Amendment Bill justified?