Women’s organisations and civil society groups on Saturday urged the President not to sign the ordinance to amend the law related to sexual violence, which was proposed by the cabinet on Friday. They said the measure was cosmetic and demanded that a series of bills covering all the recommendations of Justice Verma Committee be introduced in Parliament.
“What they are doing is enhancing punishment by a few years. All the provisions that were meant to create accountability have been ignored,” Vrinda Grover, women activist and a noted lawyer told DNA.
The government on Friday had issued an ordinance based on recommendations by the Justice Verma Committee, which will come into effect as soon as president Pranab Mukherjee signs it. The ordinance has left out crucial issues such as defining marital rape as a crime. It also ignored the suggestion that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act be reviewed so that sexual crimes committed by people from the armed forces be tried under criminal law. “All the recommendations that strike at the heart of the issue have been dropped,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association.
Responding to the criticism, Minister of External Affairs, Salman Khurshid, said, “Bringing in an ordinance does not mean that consultation cannot take place when the actual bill is brought into the parliament.”
Women’s groups ask Pranab to scrap ordinanceThe members, however, questioned why an emergency measure was required. "We wonder what objective will be served by such a hasty, non-transparent measure less than three weeks before the parliamentary session, since the proposed law will not retrospectively apply to the Delhi gang rape case," Krishnan said.
Talking about gender neutral perpetrator for sexual assault, Grover said that it is a slap on the face of women. "Not only do we not have any protection against sexual violence, but now women can even be falsely implicated in it."
Madhu Mehra, a women's rights lawyer, said, "Rape as we know it is a crime largely defined as male violence against women, with absolutely no evidence of women as perpetrators. This ordinance betrays the trust of scores of Indian men and women who marched the streets of Delhi and other cities demanding an end to the impunity with which sexual violence is committed."
However, former IPS officer and activist Kiran Bedi, welcomed the ordinance, "It's a beginning. But there's still a long way to go, as the Justice Verma recommendations are a holistic correction," she said. The brother of the gang-rape victim too welcomed the ordinance because it allows awarding the death penalty in extreme cases.