By Vivek Sugandh:
The Justice Verma panel which was set up in the wake of the brutal gang rape in Delhi finally came up with its recommendations. The committee, consisting of veterans headed by Justice Verma, the former CJI, was set up by the government to provide recommendations to combat rape and other crimes relating to women. The panel has been applauded for its suggestions and detailed research in this area.
Our society suffers from patriarchy and harassment of women, even the international agencies have branded us as a place which is unsafe for the XX chromosome. We always boast that “mera bharat mahaan”, but on a just note, this place is not-so-great because of the precarious condition of women. Right from her birth, a girl suffers from gender injustice which manifests itself in uglier forms when she grows up. Thus, all accolades which we won are finally undone because of this perilous condition. To support the fact through figures, in 2011 alone there were 24206 registered cases of rape and 51538 cases of sexual violence. Therefore, there is an urgent need to act against such evil.
The report has some remarkable points which show that a considerable amount of pondering has been done on this alarming issue. It looks at violence against women as a constitutional violation of rights. Right against marital rape is a dynamic point which was not discussed by the public earlier. The panel does not confine itself with the rape issue only and goes on to extend the self-protection rights to women. It also talks about the prosecution of the police officer who does not register an FIR on a complaint by the girl. It also takes a dig on the draconian AFSPA which is acting as a shield to protect the criminals in uniform. The panel says that it is very anguishing that these military people ravage the pride of women on the name of necessity. It calls for right of exemption from government’s sanction to seek prosecution of the member of the armed forces for a sexual offence. I completely agree with the panel, which has suggested reducing the juvenile age from 18 to 16. In my opinion, the most notable suggestion was to set up an independent constitutional body like CAG to look onto the matters relating to women and child development. If this happens, I can only imagine the fate of the government which is already on shaky grounds due to the allegations of our praiseworthy CAG.
The report also takes a jibe on the government for its political stance and lack of accountability of public servants. It says that the government has lost its way and should realize their social responsibility which is of prime importance. As the report points “The failure of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment eroding the rule of law”. The government everywhere is only concerned with corporate led growth and igniting the animal spirits in the economy.
On a critical note, most of the suggestions are normative and many crucial questions are unanswered and cannot be termed as panacea for all evils against women. The committee does not talk about stricter punishment in case of rape by a man who is politically, economically or socially dominant. The committee does not talk about legalization of prostitution. Since prostitution without pimps and solicitation is legal in India, the practice of prostitution could curb rapes especially in cities that are flooded with male migrant workers. One of the reasons why rape is fewer in Mumbai, despite it being the glamour capital of India, is the widespread existence of red-light areas. Apart from this, the panel does not provide any rehabilitation package to the rape victim. It does not speak of giving another chance to the victim to live freely by providing privileges. There is no concrete solution relating to faster execution of cases relating to rapes and sexual assault.
Overall, the Verma committee has served its purpose of establishment and has finally given a prudent start to tackle the evil of misogyny. The problem with our country is that committees were always made, suggestions were always given but it takes years in implementation. The committee should be congratulated for its commendable work but the victory will be marked only after its quick implementation. Let’s hope that it does not enter into the morass of political lethargy just like the 15-year-old Women’s Reservation bill, which is still waiting to be passed in Parliament.