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Three Reasons Why The Government Is Afraid Of Justice Verma”s Recommendations?

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By Anshul Verma:

After the bone-chilling incident of 16th of December, the Government of India was forced to set up a three member judicial committee to re-look into the rape laws of the country. Amidst high profile action and expectations, the three member panel submitted its mammoth report on January 23rd in which a slew of measures were suggested to safeguard women and to help in achieving gender justice. Some of the recommendations included making rape a gender specific crime, reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and stricter punishments in cases of eve teasing.

AFSPA

On the 1st of February, the Union Cabinet introduced an ordinance to combat sexual violence which incorporated a number of recommendations put forth by the Justice J.S. Verma Committee but it categorically rejected the more controversial findings of the committee which included the one pertaining to reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 is described by human rights activists as one of the most draconian laws prevalent in India. The Act spreads over all insurgency hit areas of the North East and Jammu & Kashmir. Under this Act, the army personnel are granted special legal immunity while operating in insurgency hit areas and have powers like that of forceful detention. Many crimes carried out by Indian army men go unreported because of the legal protection which they enjoy under the AFSPA. The Justice J.S. Verma Committee had sought for special amendments in the Act to empower the judiciary to prosecute army personnel accused in cases of sexual violence in areas covered by the AFSPA.

There are three principal reasons why the Government of India is scared of enacting this measure. Firstly, the Indian Government is wary of the international outrage which the revoking of AFSPA could lead to. The Indian Army is accused of carrying out extreme human rights abuses in the valley of Kashmir where over 80,000 people have gone missing. In case the AFSPA is revoked, many of the gruesome incidents of human rights abuses and sexual violence would come to fore and the Indian Government would have to face major embarrassment and international condemnation for having shielded the culprits in military uniform for so long.

Secondly, after having barely managed to score an edge over General V.K. Singh in the now infamous ‘age row’, the Govt. is in no mood to again run into a clash with the armed forces. The Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, had thought of revoking the AFSPA from certain areas in Kashmir some time back but this idea was stonewalled by the Indian Army. Keeping in mind that it can no longer afford to upset its relations with the army, the Government would not take a step as big as revocation of AFSPA, an Act which is vehemently supported by Indian army officers as they consider it to be necessary while carrying out their operations against secessionists and insurgents.

Lastly and most importantly, the gaffe committed by Sushil Kumar Shinde by issuing a politically incorrect statement on ‘Hindu Terror’ has forced the Government into a defensive line of action. In order to neutralize the damage caused by Shinde’s comments, the Government of India ensured the execution of Afzal Guru whose clemency plea was an exceptionally controversial one. The UPA Government knows that its chances of coming back to power in 2014 are very less as corruption scandals and massive public protests have dented its reputation beyond repair. In such sort of fragile circumstances, the UPA Government does not intend to gift another populist issue into the hands of the Opposition. In case the UPA Government revokes the AFSPA at this stage, the Opposition led BJP would accuse it of being soft on terror. The BJP has made use of this strategy effectively in the past by hitting out at the Congress for revoking the POTA (Prevention Of Terrorism Act). The BJP has literally no voter base in Kashmir and the North East. They might try to consolidate the votes of some jingoists by trying to show the softening of Government’s stand on the AFSPA (if in case there is one in the future) as a classic example of vote-bank politics. In order to keep the Opposition at bay and to ensure that it is not seen as being soft on terror, the Government would dare not disturb the conundrum surrounding the AFSPA.

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  1. Karmanye Thadani

    With all due respect, the very premise of this article becomes baseless in the light of this ruling of the supreme court much before the Delhi gang-rape case, at least as far as rape is concerned –

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/cannot-invoke-afspa-in-rape-murder-sc-to-army/907776

    also, while i am not an advocate of whataboutery, a little bit of balance by pointing to how many of the allegations of human rights abuses are grossly exaggerated and how Kashmiri militants also engaged in rapes, not only of Kashmiri Hindus but even Kashmiri Muslims, would have been nice in my humble opinion.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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