On December 16 2012, the horrific Delhi gang-rape took place. Nationwide protests centred in the Capital erupted immediately. The Justice JS Verma judicial committee was set up on December 22. It submitted its recommendations on January 23, 2013.
The Cabinet approved the subsequent Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance in February, the Parliament passed it in March and the President signed it into force in March. It is now an Act.
One has to agree that by Indian standards, that’s lightning fast.
Acid attack, stalking, voyeurism and public disrobing of a woman are new offences. Physical contact, sexual favours and even things like forcibly showing women pornography have all been included.
Of course it has some shortcomings too. Marital rape has not been included. Age of consent was another controversial issue.
There is also no forward movement AFSPA, where an exception could have been made for just heinous crimes against women. Ironically at the same time long-time activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike to protest the same from 2000, was arrested for attempt to suicide!
Still, one must laud whatever forward movement has taken place and keep pushing for more and more reforms in the years to come. The anti-rape agitation is not a one-stop solution, but it is a lifelong movement.
More and more solutions should be considered to make the lot of women safer in this country. Some could be legal and others outside the legal framework too.
Some more ideas that could be considered…
1. 33% reservation in police force: Some time back there was a proposal to have 33% reservation in Parliament. But with the way things are going, this looks to be next to impossible, with parties like the SP fighting it tooth and nail.
One idea could be to have 33% reservation for women in the police force at all levels. The Indian police forces are predominantly male in numbers and this shows up in the overall attitude. India got Independence in 1947, but it was only 25 years later in 1972 that Kiran Bedi became the first woman IPS officer!
That itself tells a tale. We can have a pink revolution in the police forces and this will lead to an overall change in attitudes and might help women victims of crime in the long run.
2. Compulsory video testimony: One big downer for rape victims is that they have to keep repeating their story time and again: First in front of various police officials and then in the courts especially if the appeals keep going in higher and higher courts.
Technology should be used and like an FIR, there should be a First Video Testimony which should be used at all levels instead of having the rape victim keep repeating her story and getting humiliated in the process.
3. Pepper spray and guns: While rapes that are committed within the family and those by known people are extremely complex issues to be solved, measures can be taken place to avoid instances like the Delhi gang rape case.
While there should be demands for more lighting in unsafe areas and more night services, the carrying of pepper spray by women should be encouraged.
There was one case of a woman jumping out of an auto to avoid harassment. In another case, the foreigner jumped off a hotel balcony. These are some cases where a pepper spray might have helped.
We can explore the option of giving gun licenses to women easily so that they can defend themselves. While a similar opinion was expressed by Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna that was seen as an off-the-cuff remark and a more serious and structured proposal could be looked into.
4. Compulsory martial arts training: Nothing beats self-defence. While women have proved to be as good as or even better than men in each and every field there is, they only lose out in raw muscle. The Government could introduce one year of martial arts training any time during the college years. This could be a small beginning.
5. Chemical castration: There have been cases of sexual offenders who were out on parole committing more offences. Chemical castration could be introduced to prevent repeat offences. Though this is a tricky issue, it is less controversial than surgical castration.
6. No bail: Bail could be denied only for a certain timeframe to prevent the accused from intimidating the victim.
7. Special rape centres: The rape victim many a times finds a hostile world and it becomes very difficult to fight for justice. Even the police can be antagonistic at times. Helplines should be strengthened and special rape centres should be set up all over which will help victims by first listening to them and then helping them file complaints with the police.
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