Alex Hamasaki, Student Intern
Last Modified: 18:25 p.m. DST, 29 March 2013
INDIA – In response to the 2012 Delhi rape gang case, the government in India set up a panel called the Justice Verma Committee headed by a retired judge to recommend legal reform and other ways to reduce sexual violence, reports BBC.
A bill containing harsher punishments for violence against women passed in early March, and Karuna Nundy, a leading Indian Supreme Court lawyer, explained to BBC how the laws work.
Nundy says that the new laws consist of a combination of thinking about gender and existing patriarchal attitudes, and those ingrained in the colonial Indian Penal Code of 1860.
The bill defined several actions as crimes: stalking, intimidating, murder, acid violence, disrobing, and voyeurism. Additionally, the bill clarifies that in rape; the absence of a physical struggle does not indicate that the actions were consensual.
One of the major reasons why crimes against women aren’t reported is because police would refuse to register the complaints, says Nundy. The bill would give compulsory jail time to those who fail to register complaints.
Healthcare providers must provide survivors of sexual violence or acid attacks free and immediate medical care.
There are increased jail terms and the potentiality for the death penalty in a repeat offense or rape that causes coma. If evidence demonstrates that the death penalty is not a deterrent for committing crimes as Nundy claims, then what is the alternative punishment?
Nundy is further concerned with the lack of expansion of the criminal justice system. Speedy trials are supposed to be the best in prosecuting crimes against women, Nundy says, and it is unclear how fast these trials will be. Offenders may attempt to drag on the trial process for a long time, which would cause the victim much hardship. Additionally, Nundy says “there’s also a concern that if sentences are thought of as too harsh by judges, the already high acquittal rate in cases of sexual violence will rise further.”
Under this bill, consensual intercourse between teenagers aged 16-18 is considered rape. The boy involved can be sentenced to up to three-years in prison, and labeled as a rapist.
The new laws fail to protect men and transgender from rape. The cultural attitudes in India can help explain this failure to protect transgender.
According to the Taipei Times and the Global Post, transgender face heavy discrimination. The Taipei Times reports that homosexuality is accepted, however, straying from cultural perceptions of femininity or masculinity leads to prosecution. The transgender communities in India, known as hjaris, have been prevented from obtaining decent education and jobs and housing, reports the Global Post.
Marital rape is still legal. According to the India RealTime, in Indian culture, the husband has the right to intercourse whenever he pleases. Activists have called for laws that would allow women to press charges against their husbands, but this has yet to be addressed.
Armed forces in “disturbed areas” are still effectively immune from the prosecution of rape and sexual assault. The Hindustan Times reports that in many instances, an offender from the armed forces will try to take their trial to civilian courts because the trial can take years. In contrast, in military courts, prosecution can come swiftly and the punishment can be much more severe.
Though the laws fail to address several important areas, the laws represent an important step in the change in laws and attitudes in India.
- Anti Rape Bill in India (mysticalfiction.wordpress.com)
- Explaining India’s new anti-rape laws (bbc.co.uk)
- This Could Be the Most Important Part of India’s Anti-Rape Law (theatlantic.com)
- Activists welcome India’s anti-rape law, with caution (dailystar.com.lb)
- New India rape shame: Homeless girl aged just THREE kidnapped and gang raped (mirror.co.uk)