The comprehensive reforms suggested by Justice Verma and his colleagues will protect the right to dignity, autonomy and freedom of victims of sexual assault and rape
Starting with Tarabai Shinde’s spirited defence of the honour of her sister countrywomen in 1882, women’s movements in India have been marked by persistent and protracted struggles. But despite this rich and varied history, we have in recent weeks found ourselves shocked at the decimation of decades of struggle.
At a time when despair and anger at the futility of hundreds of thousands of women’s lifetimes spent in imagining a world that is safe drive us yet again to the streets; at a time when our daughters get assaulted in the most brutal ways and our sons learn that unimaginable brutality is the only way of becoming men; at a time when we wonder if all that intellectual and political work of crafting frameworks to understand women’s subjugation and loss of liberty through sexual terrorism has remained imprisoned within the covers of books in “women’s studies” libraries; at a time like this, what does it mean to suddenly find that all is not lost and to discover on a winter afternoon that our words and work have cascaded out of our small radical spaces and transformed constitutional common sense?
The Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law headed by Justice J.S. Verma is our moment of triumph — the triumph of women’s movements in this country. As with all triumphs, there are always some unrealised possibilities, but these do not detract from the fact of the victory.
Rather than confining itself to criminal law relating to rape and sexual assault, the committee has comprehensively set out the constitutional framework within which sexual assault must be located. Perhaps more importantly, it also draws out the political framework within which non-discrimination based on sex must be based and focuses on due diligence by the state in order to achieve this as part of its constitutional obligation, with the Preamble interpreted as inherently speaking to justice for women in every clause.
If capabilities are crucial in order that people realise their full potential, this will be an unattainable goal for women till such time as the state is held accountable for demonstrating a commitment to this goal. Performance audits of all institutions of governance and law and order are seen as an urgent need in this direction.
The focus of the entire exercise is on protecting the right to dignity, autonomy and freedom of victims of sexual assault and rape — with comprehensive reforms suggested in electoral laws, policing, criminal laws and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, and the provision of safe spaces for women and children.
Arguing that “cultural prejudices must yield to constitutional principles of equality, empathy and respect” (p.55), the committee, in a reiteration of the Naaz Foundation judgment, brings sexual orientation firmly within the meaning of “sex” in Article 15, and underscores the right to liberty, dignity and fundamental rights of all persons irrespective of sex or sexual orientation — and the right of all persons, not just women, against sexual assault.
Reviewing leading cases and echoing the critique of Indian women’s groups and feminist legal scholars — whether in the case of Mathura or even the use of the shame-honour paradigm that has trapped victim-survivors in rape trials and in khap panchayats, the committee observes: “…women have been looped into a vicious cycle of shame and honour as a consequence of which they have been attended with an inherent disability to report crimes of sexual offences against them.”
In terms of the definition of rape, the committee recommends retaining a redefined offence of “rape” within a larger section on “sexual assault” in order to retain the focus on women’s right to integrity, agency and bodily integrity. Rape is redefined as including all forms of non-consensual penetration of sexual nature (p.111). The offence of sexual assault would include all forms of non-consensual, non-penetrative touching of sexual nature. Tracing the history of the marital rape exception in the common law of coverture in England and Wales in the 1700s, the committee unequivocally recommends the removal of the marital rape exception as vital to the recognition of women’s right to autonomy and physical integrity irrespective of marriage or other intimate relationship. Marriage, by this argument, cannot be a valid defence, it is not relevant to the matter of consent and it cannot be a mitigating factor in sentencing in cases of rape. On the other hand, the committee recommended that the age of consent in consensual sex be kept at 16, and other legislation be suitably amended in this regard.
Rights advocates in Kashmir, the States of the North-East, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and other areas that have witnessed protracted conflict and communal violence have for decades been demanding that sexual violence by the armed forces, police and paramilitary as well as by collective assault by private actors be brought within the meaning of aggravated sexual assault. This has been taken on board with the committee recommending that such forms of sexual assault deserve to be treated as aggravated sexual assault in law (p. 220). Specifically, the committee recommends an amendment in Section 6 of the AFSPA, 1958, removing the requirement of prior sanction where the person has been accused of sexual assault.
Clearly a sensitive and committed police force is indispensable to the interests of justice. But how should this come about? There have been commissions that have recommended reforms, cases that have been fought and won, but impunity reigns supreme. If all the other recommendations of the Committee are carried through, will the government give even a nominal commitment that the chapter on police reforms will be read, leave alone acted on?
The Delhi case
The recent gang rape and death of a young student in Delhi has raised the discussion on the question of sentencing and punishment yet again. The first set of questions had to do with the nature and quantum of punishment. Treading this issue with care, the committee enhances the minimum sentence from seven years to 10 years, with imprisonment for life as the maximum. On the death penalty, the committee has adopted the abolitionist position, in keeping with international standards of human rights, and rejected castration as an option. The second question had to do with the reduction of age in respect of juveniles. Despite the involvement of a juvenile in this incident, women’s groups and child rights groups were united in their view that the age must not be lowered, that the solution did not lie in locking them up young. Given the low rates of recidivism, the committee does not recommend the lowering of the age, recommending instead, comprehensive institutional reform in children’s institutions.
The report contains comprehensive recommendations on amendments in existing criminal law, which cannot be detailed here except in spirit. The significance of the report lies, not so much in its immediate translation into law or its transformation of governance (although these are the most desirable and urgent), but in its pedagogic potential — as providing a new basis for the teaching and learning of the Constitution and criminal law and the centrality of gender to legal pedagogy.
(Kalpana Kannabiran is Professor and Director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Conviction rates improve when teams of lawyers and social workers supervise progress of individual cases in a spirit of cooperation with officials
Today, the Justice Verma Committee is scheduled to release recommendations on ways to strengthen government’s response to crimes of aggravated sexual assault. There has been a lot of noise in the media calling for harsher punishment for rapists. The demands have only grown louder as details from the barbaric events of the December 16 gang rape and murder in Delhi come to light. While cries for chemical castration and even death for rapists stem from the brutality of the crime, they do not address the root problem: the criminal justice system does not function the way it is meant to function. In fact, the public’s frustration points to a decay of trust in the government’s ability to deliver justice and protect its people.
There have also been quieter, more reasonable voices in the media calling for a stronger, more sensitive, criminal justice system: one that delivers justice swiftly, gives rightful convictions and treats victims with dignity and compassion. While the substantive and procedural rape law is far from perfect, society’s frustration is not based on the inadequacy of the law, but on effective implementation of the law.
The law and reality
In fact, statutory law and Supreme Court and High Court judgments have established a solid legal framework that protects rape victims and requires government authorities to follow victim-friendly procedures. Protections under this legal framework include requiring lawyers and social workers for victims at the police station and for police to take statements in a setting that makes the victim comfortable. At government hospitals, there should be special rooms to examine rape victims, equipped with medical kits that doctors should use to examine the victim and collect crucial evidence. When the victim testifies at trial — vital evidence needed for getting a conviction — it should take place in the judge’s chambers rather than in open court, and whenever possible, before a woman judge. For children, there are even greater protections and accommodations, many of which have been codified in the recently enacted Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Unfortunately, there is a gap between this legal framework and practice on the ground.
Of course, the success of any system comes down to the people who work within the system. The great majority of publicity about people who work within the criminal justice system, especially law enforcement officials, has been negative. Maybe the negative publicity is justified and brings needed attention to problems. But constant antagonism is counterproductive; it drowns out the good work countless police officials do every day. Good people dedicated to public service who work long hours for low pay without adequate training and resources. Yes, there are government officials — police officials, medical practitioners, public prosecutors and judges — who must change their attitudes and do their jobs better. At the same time, it is only human nature that if someone consistently hears negative criticism, they tend to become discouraged and desensitised to the feedback. Either they will sink to the level people expect of them or they will stubbornly refuse to raise their professional standards. There is a better approach that builds positive energy: civil society collaborating with government to strengthen the criminal justice system.
Long-term strategies should focus on changing the culture of the criminal justice system so that it is victim friendly and implements the law. But improving performance immediately merely requires government authorities to follow the law already in place. A mechanism needs to hold government authorities accountable when they do not implement the law, regardless of the reason: whether because they are uninformed, do not have a clear understanding of the law, or it is inconvenient to follow.
An effective way to hold government authorities accountable is to have a team comprising a lawyer and social worker, trained to handle cases of sexual violence, advocate for the victim’s interests at the police station till judgment. The team would work on the ground, advising on the law, supporting the victim and monitoring progress of cases. At first they will likely need to confront officials when the law is not implemented. But their broader approach would be one of a spirit of collaboration and cooperation.
In Delhi, the Rape Crisis Cell under the Delhi Commission for Women partners with non-governmental organisations to provide legal and social support to rape victims. The Delhi Commission for Women’s lawyers start providing oversight only at the trial stage. Still, the National Crime Records Bureau reports that in 2011, Delhi NCT had a 41.5 per cent conviction rate in rape cases compared to the 26.4 per cent national conviction rate. In both examples, conviction rates are higher This programme is a good model that provides advocates who represent the victim’s interests, while collaborating with government authorities to strengthen the criminal justice system.
When government authorities collaborate with civil society groups, the criminal justice system functions more effectively: government authorities are more likely to follow victim-friendly procedures, investigations and trials will move more swiftly and conviction rates will rise. When this happens, potential perpetrators will think twice before they aggressively harass women. Women and their families will have greater confidence to report sexual abuse; and society’s faith will steadily grow in the system meant to provide security and protect them.
(Jonathan Derby is a U.S. licensed attorney who has extensive experience in human rights at grass-roots level in India.)
Set up to review current laws on aggravated sexual assault following the brutal gang rape of a young girl in Delhi on December 16 last year, the Justice JS Verma Commission will submit its report to the government tomorrow. It will also make the report public.
The Home Ministry, while notifying the commission on December 24, 2012, had given it a month for the job. The committee has taken less than a month to scan hundreds of representations on the issue agitating the country. Before finalising the report, the committee comprising former Chief Justice of India JS Verma, Justice Leila Seth (former Chief Justice of Himachal HC) and Gopal Subramanian (former Solicitor General) met over 100 women’s representatives from across India.
Importantly, the commission expanded its area beyond the terms of reference the government set for it. The Home Ministry notification had asked it to “review the present laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault.” But the committee has looked at the context of sexual assault, including issues of human trafficking, missing children and beggary as factors behind crimes.
It is set to recommend a comprehensive criminal law amendment Bill that defines sexual assault to address penetrative assault as well as non-penetrative sexual offences such as molestation, stalking and stripping. Marital rape is also likely to be recommended for inclusion in the sexual assault law for the first time. Currently, marital rape is legal.
The panel is also expected to seek repeal of Sections 354 and 509 of the IPC which contain archaic notions of outraging the modesty of women and recommend their replacement with a clear gradation of non-penetrative sexual offences along with punishments depending on the violation of women’s bodily integrity.
For the first time, there is a possibility of security forces being covered as a separate category in the section of sexual assault law dealing with aggravated sexual assault. Section 376 (2) of the Criminal Amendment Bill 2012 which the government introduced in Lok Sabha last December doesn’t cover security or armed forces as a category under aggravated sexual assault and mentions only police, public servants, remand home in charges and hospital managements. The Verma panel will likely seek inclusion of armed forces and recommend waivers of prosecution sanction if they are accused of this offence.
On punishment, the committee’s view remains to be seen considering majority petitions argued against death penalty and chemical castration and sought quick justice and imprisonment ranging from 10 years to the rest of life for the accused depending on the crime committed.
Women’s groups unanimously opposed lowering the juvenile age from 18 years at present and called for accountability of states and Centre on care, protection and rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents. They, however, demanded lowering the age of consent for sexual engagement from the current 18 to 16 years.
In another expected recommendation, the commission will set to ask the government to make sexual assault a gender-specific crime insofar as the perpetrator is concerned. The current government Bill defines sexual assault as a gender neutral crime (meaning women can also rape and men can be raped).
“We argued that sexual assault be made gender-specific insofar as perpetrators (males) are concerned and gender neutral insofar as victims are concerned. Among victims, women, transgenders and other sexual minorities must be mentioned. The commission heard us favourably and examined linkages between government current economic policies and rising crimes against women,” said Vrinda Grover, top Supreme Court lawyer.
- It will cover penetrative assault as well as non-penetrative sexual offences such as molestation, stalking and stripping
- Marital rape is also likely to be recommended for inclusion in the sexual assault law for the first time. Currently, marital rape is legal
- The panel is also likely to press for doing away with archaic terms like outraging the modesty of women and recommend their replacement with a clear gradation of non-penetrative sexual offences
- For the first time, there is a possibility of security forces being covered as a separate category in the section of sexual assault law
- Women’s groups want marital rape punished (thehindu.com)
Of all the promises made in the Constitution, the most important are the promises of the ‘right to life’, the ‘right to dignity’, the ‘right to personal liberty’ and the ‘right to bodily integrity and health’. However these promises are yet to be redeemed for women. Rape and other forms of sexual assault,domestic violence,dowry death and honour killings — the most brazen violation of these rights — are a real and daily danger for most women.
The cry that has been reverberating in the streets of the capital — and across the country — from a new and younger generation of citizens is: “We want justice”. It is addressed to us judges and lawyers whose primary responsibility is to protect the rights of the people. The women of this country are no longer willing to tolerate the unconscionable delays in the delivery of justice. It is the sacred duty of judges to prevent violence against women in the home; at the work place and on the streets and hold the perpetrators accountable. What is it that stops courts from securing justice for women? Why has the law not been able to convict the accused when it comes to crime against women? The situation is best summed up by a famous Orwellian quote—’ to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle’.
To see the lack of judicial will to get justice for victims of gender-based violence, as stemming from a deeply entrenched prejudice and misogyny in the justice delivery system, including the courts and their judges, is an exercise demanding a constant struggle. It is so much in front of our noses that we, women and men included, legitimise the presence of sexism in our lives and carry it to the corridors of the court and into the courtrooms and into judgements.
This is a part of the Indian reality; from the private sphere of the ‘home’ to the public space like places of work; from the open streets to the corridors of courts playing out in the theatres of justice. Today, the belief in equality is not sincerely held at all. On the contrary, the social system, including the judicial system, is built on a hierarchy along caste and gender lines.
It is no secret that violence against women stems from the deeply unequal relationship between the two sexes in private and public life. It is also no secret that this misogyny is deeply rooted in our society, including within the system of administration of justicefrom investigation to trial, to judgment. A high court judge in Orissa in his judgement once famously held, that it was not possible for a man, acting alone, to rape a woman in good health. There you have it, the distinction between “legitimate” rape and ” illegitimate” rape (to borrow from the infamous comment by Todd Akin) coming from a high court judge.
This is the same thing you hear so often from judges that “women are misusing the law.” They decide what is the legitimate use of the law for women, based on a deeply sexist view of how a woman should behave; what she should desire and how much violence she should tolerate. A casual glance at the kinds of questions a woman is asked in any prosecution of gender- based violence or a reading of judgments of the court will reaffirm this view. On one occasion when a woman lawyer asked for an adjournment, a district judge said, ” I know how you women lawyers make it”. He was rewarded by being appointed to the high court.
Sexual violence against women is unique as it begins in the home and moves out to public places. The problem begins with the assumed consent that women give to sexual intercourse within a marriage. Rape by a man of his wife without her consent is not an offence. Since this is a settled norm, it matters little whether forcible sexual intercourse is with the wife or a stranger on the street. With this accepted culture of rape within marriage standing tall, we have little hope of changing the culture of violence against women anywhere. The assumed consent of a woman to sexual intercourse becomes ingrained in the psyche of a man — as a husband, a son, a brother and this psyche continues into public spaces. Thus it is imperative to recognise that non-consensual sexual intercourse is unacceptable regardless of whether it is with a wife or a stranger, if we want sexual violence against women to stop. A legal culture that creates ‘legitimate and ‘illegitimate’ violence needs to change.
It is heartening to see for the first time, a large number of men on the streets protesting against sexual abuse of women. It is a new generation which brings hope that the tendency for violence against women is about to end as men of future generations will not tolerate such violence.
Lack of adequate number of judges or excessive workload is no longer an acceptable excuse to the women of this country for delaying judicial decisions. They know that it is the abuse of the process of law by vested interests and the utter indifference to women who have been sexually abused, that cause delays, not lack of infrastructure. An approximately 40% increase in the number of judges between 2005 and 2012, has not produced a corresponding decline in the pendency of cases. Justice does not reside in the brick and mortar courtrooms but in the heart and soul of judges and lawyers who represent victims of injustice. Any judge worth the name knows how to prevent delays and an abuse of the process of law by the rich and the famous.
The first duty of judges is to give cases of sexual assault priority and deal with them expeditiously with zero tolerance for delay. The demand for fast track courts is a metaphor for the intolerance of a dysfunctional legal system. While dedicated courts may go some way in dealing with the issue of delays, they will have to be accompanied by support structures, which enable a fair investigation and prosecution.
Women are conspicuous by their absence from the courts as lawyers and as judges. On the other hand, our law schools have at least 50% women students. Yet due to the patriarchy embedded in the judiciary and the legal system, the number of women lawyers and judges is negligible. Even those who manage to penetrate the highly patriarchal framework are discriminated against in terms of appointments, designation as seniors and promotions. Women are constantly under the microscope being pushed to prove themselves while male lawyers need pass no test of competence. The old boys network effectively keeps women out of the span of all zones of influence.
All talk of increasing the penalty for rapists to death is hollow. As the law stands today, a m a n fo u n d guilty of rape can be given a life sentence, And yet in my entire career as a lawyer spanning over 40 years, I have yet to see a single case in which a life sentence has been meted out to a rapist, what then to talk of the death penalty! This calls for urgent action plan by the Chief Justice of India and the chief justices of all high courts to raise as fast as possible the number of women judges in our courts. A few years ago, a woman who I represented in a classic case of sexual harassment, once asked me why her appeal was not being listed before a woman judge in the Supreme Court. My answer was simple, “because there is no woman judge in the Supreme Court.” At this she expressed her amazement and asked, if the Supreme Court could mandate that the chairperson of a sexual harassment committee which was to be set up by employers must be a woman, how come that law does not apply to the court itself ? I had no answer.
A critical mass of women in the judicial system and in the prosecution will inspire confidence in the system for women. The world over, this is known to happen. Women today have no stake in the judicial system and this is reflected in the cry “We want justice”.
A demand for accountability of institutions of justice delivery, the police and the courts must accompany the demand for appropriate laws. Accountability of the police must start with a complaints procedure within the police service itself where a complaint can be lodged for non-performance of duties. A clear command responsibility must be articulated within this mechanism so that in case of non-performance of duties by a junior, the senior officer is held liable. When a pattern of non-performance emerges, leading to a permanent sense of insecurity in which women live, the accountability must be that of the head of the police, and of the political establishment. Confidence in the administration can only be restored by measurable action against people in positions of power.
The judiciary has long been a selfregulating, self- appointing institution. We need a transparent method of appointment of judges where the antecedents of the proposed appointee can be publicly scrutinised. Accountability of the legal system must carry with it, accountability of judges. We need an official mechanism for monitoring the performance of the judiciary to check how content of their judgements meet the constitutional goals of equality. We need independent special rapporteurs drawn from civil society to report directly to Parliament on the performance of the legal system, the judicial system and the police system and violence against women.
It is time for standards to be put in place as to how judges must behave with women lawyers and litigants. The language of the law must be sanitized of all its male chauvinist content. No judge, let alone a Supreme Court judge must ever be allowed to use sexist language in judgements or during the course of arguments in court. Accountability starts at the top with the Supreme Court, what a judge of the Supreme Court thinks and says today, will be said and done by the 17,000 subordinate court judges who deliver justice under the supervision of the high courts.
We need a protocol on how judges ought to behave with women in courts and how they should address women’s issues in their judgements. Gender sensitive language must reflect in judgements dealing with women. This is not a matter of form but of substance. Changing culture and mindsets often requires language to change and rules and regulations, which reflect the change and do not permit a fall from standards. This is the time when the Chief Justice of India must rise to the occasion and speak to the nation and inform us what will be done to restore the confidence of the people in the justice system. Besides his role as a judge, he has a role as the head of the judiciary responsible for the administration of the justice.
The single most important statement we would like to hear from him, is that discrimination against women by judges will not be tolerated; the judiciary will have to exhibit and demonstrate zero tolerance of violence against women in the home, and on the streets.
The goal of law is to sustain life not support its destruction. This is what the 23-year-old was trying to tell us, before she died. “I want to live,” she said, not die of shame. She changed the way society looks at rape — from blaming the victim to focusing on the rapist. All law reform must move in that direction, asking how we can build a new life-sustaining legal culture, a more equal culture, with justice for all. That is the question we must address — with or — without a special session of Parliament.
The writer is Additional Solicitor General of India
KALPANA SHARMA IN THE HINDU
The Supreme Court clears the way for women to become In-Flight Supervisors in Air India. Thanks to those women who believed in and fought for equality at the workplace.
This judgment passed virtually without comment. The media ignored it. Why should the rights of a relatively small group of women concern the rest of us? Yet the November 17 Supreme Court judgment, by Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph, upholding Air India’s 2005 decision to remove the precondition that an In Flight Supervisor could only be a male, and that women cabin crew could also be appointed to that position, is significant. The troubled airline has not been a shining example of gender equity. Yet, finally wisdom dawned and it did accept that there was no justification for a rule that held a particular job only for men when the men and women on flights had the same training and did virtually identical tasks.
What is fascinating about this case is the manner in which the male cabin crew opposed the new rule and challenged it in court. In 2007, the Delhi High Court upheld Air India’s right to make this change and held that it saw nothing wrong in the rule. That judgment is worth reading in its entirety as it spells out the history of the struggles of women cabin crew in Air India to assert their right to equal treatment. There have been innumerable court cases, on issues ranging from a different retirement age for male and female crew members to a rule at one point where women who became pregnant within four years of being appointed had to quit to one where women cabin crew were grounded if they exceeded a certain weight.
It is hard to fathom why a ‘national’ airline should lag so behind the times on these issues. The women employed by Air India have had to turn to the courts on all these issues. These were not battles for additional powers. The women were simply asserting that they should have the same rights as other employees in a country where equality is guaranteed and where one is working for a ‘national’ airline that ostensibly wishes to promote India’s ‘national’ image.
This last battle, to get the airline to remove the anomaly where a particular job was virtually kept as a ‘male only’ designation for no reason at all, was in some ways the strangest. Senior women cabin crew members of Air India, some of whom trained other cabin crew members including men, had to contend with serving under the same men they had trained simply because, regardless of seniority or experience, they could never get the designation of In-Flight Supervisor. Even after private airlines came on the scene where there was no discrimination between male and female cabin crew, Air India persisted. And when it finally changed the rule, the male cabin crew objected, calling this positive change “discriminatory” and challenged it in Court.
In 2007, the Delhi High Court was quite clear in its ruling. It stated: “The Court finds that IFS (In-Flight Supervisor) is no longer a post, much less a promotional post. It is a function that one among the cabin crew, on the basis of seniority, is asked to perform during the flight. This Court is unable to discern in any of the settlements any assurance or promise held out to the pre-1997 male cabin crew that a female colleague of theirs will never ever be asked to perform the function of an IFS. Nor do the judgments of the Supreme Court say so. The impugned order dated 27.12.2005 is not discriminatory to the male cabin crew. In fact, far from eliminating the possibility of the male cabin crew performing the function of IFS, it provides a chance to their female colleagues as well. In effect it removes the ‘ men only’ tag on the function of IFS. We are asked by the pre-1997 male cabin crew to hold this to be unreasonable. We decline to do so. This Court finds nothing arbitrary, unreasonable or irrational in the pre-1997 male cabin crew being asked to serve on a flight which has their female colleague as an IFS. This then is the jist of the lengthy judgment that follows.” (LPA Nos. 122-125 of 2006, Date of Decision: October 8, 2007.)
Representatives of the male cabin crew had argued that they would not work under women, even if they were senior. The job had been promised only to men and they were determined to hang on to it. And women could not claim the right to equality in this matter because the job of a woman on flight and a man on flight were substantially different, they argued. Yet passengers on flights can observe for themselves that the men and women in the cabin crew do exactly the same things — welcome you, make announcements about safety regulations, serve you food and drink, clear up after you, help anyone needing help, remain alert in case there is an emergency and act if such an occasion should arise.
All this is so obvious that it does not need repeating. Yet, none of this convinced the flight pursers employed by Air India who challenged the Delhi High Court judgment. The Supreme Court ruling, one hopes, has settled the matter and Air India will now be permitted to join the 21st century. And perhaps it will finally also decide to use gender-neutral terms to describe the men and women who are part of the cabin crew.
The court battles fought by women cabin crew of Air India are significant for other reasons. Many of the women who went to court could just have sat back and accepted conditions as they prevailed. After all, they had a secure job and a reasonable salary. But because some of them took the risk of even losing their jobs and challenged these discriminatory provisions, those who join the airline now will be much better placed than their seniors. The lesson these battles hold out is that discrimination does not disappear on its own and that managements are not struck by a sudden realisation that they should be fair to their employees. Positive change is more often than not the result of battles fought by those who believe strongly in equity and justice.
Email the writer: email@example.com
Violence against women in the private realm is relegated to secondary status, whether in India or in the United States. Strong laws and public policies are essential steps toward combating such violence. But the real solution lies in a culture shift, in the world, and in each of our homes
MALLIKA KAUR TRIBUNE CHANDIGARH
Three friends walked home after another tiring rehearsal for the school function. It was barely dusk. When the man leapt out of nowhere to pounce on Bandana (name changed), no one was sure what happened. Then a yell grew out of one belly and found its way down the road, down their backs, and into small eighth-grade fists that pounded on the man. He ran. The girls were proud they had fought. When they got home, they told the story solemnly. “Well, that’s what happens when you go walking around in the evenings, going out like that alone!” Bandana’s father message was clear — Chandigarh, 1997.
Brushed under the carpet
The message young girls begin receiving from our families, friends, and society becomes engrained by the time they reach womanhood: that we must not make the unforgiveable mistake of becoming victims of violence. While violence by strangers at least provides some room for women expressing their agony and demanding redressal, violence within the home remains a taboo topic. And this taboo crosses geographic, ethnic, and racial borders.
Victims of domestic abuse
On 17 August 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published its opinion finding the United States on the wrong side of human rights and domestic violence survivors. The Commission had considered the case of Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales) whose three young daughters were abducted by Lenahan’s abusive husband, Simon Gonzales, in Castle Rock, Colorado in 1999. Despite Lenahan’s repeated calls and pleas to the police, reporting that she already had a domestic violence restraining order (a legal remedy the US has made relatively easily accessible to its residents) against Simon, the police failed to act for 10 hours. Eventually, Simon Gonzales drove up to the police department and opened fire. He was shot dead by the police. The three girls were subsequently discovered shot to death inside Simon’s truck. Jessica’s legal battle for this tragic loss yielded no results.
In 2005, the US Supreme Court even found that the police involved had not violated the US Constitution by their inaction. However, the Inter-American Commission found that the US had indeed violated human rights by failing to uphold its laws to protect its nationals from domestic violence.
Laws alone not enough
In India too, domestic violence is a punishable offense under the law, even if only rather recently. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which became effective starting October 26, 2006, clearly recognised domestic violence as a punishable offence. However, the recent shaming of the US—a country that has innumerable times more extensive legal protections and services for domestic violence survivors-provides a moment of pause from comparing the wide (perhaps incomparable) chasm between the two legal systems and rather understanding a sad commonality. Laws alone cannot curb violence in the homes as long as domestic violence continues to be treated ‘special’. When it comes to such crimes, we often hear: “There must be two sides to the story” or “they both have strong personalities” or “he is frustrated since he lost his job.”
But, consider this scenario: if my neighbour loses his job, and proceeds to pick fights with me every day, gets drunk and curses me, breaks a window, wouldn’t you agree with my decision to call the police, whether or not he ever physically touches me? But if my partner does the same, why shouldn’t he conform to the standard of behavior, the law and society demand from my acquaintance-neighbour?
Breaking uneasy silence
Such uncomfortable discussions are thus largely missing in our living rooms. The domestic violence movement in the US has been asking precisely such questions more publically, loudly, and brazenly, than in many other parts of the world. For example, during October, nationally recognised as ‘Domestic Violence Awareness Month’ in the US, several public awareness activities are undertaken country-wide. During ‘Standing Silent Witness’ hours, women and men line up in busy city squares holding placards or wearing T-shirts with slogans acknowledging someone they know (or know of) who has faced domestic violence. During ‘Remembrance Days,’ survivors, allies, advocates, join together to remember those who have died because of domestic violence and also celebrate those who have survived. Purple ribbons, which have become the symbols of solidarity with anti-domestic violence work, are made into pins and passed out at local events; worn on bags and jackets; and hung on doors.
In India, we saw the Bell Bajao campaign, by the non-profit Breakthrough in 2008. TV, radio, online and print media were employed to circulate catchy calls for action by society to take a stand against domestic violence. To break the uneasy silence.
Measuring domestic violence
The anti-violence movement in the US has also promoted the measurement of domestic violence crimes, and the publicising of the statistics, so as to respond to the universal reaction—“We aren’t that kind of a family!”
On an average, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in the US every day. The Center for Disease Control has found that one in four women and one in nine men in the US report being victims of domestic violence at some points in their lives. Also, more recently, teen dating violence has been studied as a priority: approximately one in five female high school students report being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused by a dating partner.
In India, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 2005-06, recorded that 37 per cent women reported being survivors of spousal abuse; that is more than 1 in 3. These statistics show that most of us know someone who is a survivor of such violence, and all of us then are in fact ‘that kind of a family.’
Violence knows no bar
When I began representing domestic violence survivors in Californian courts, one of my mother’s friend’s asked her in all earnest, “So is wife-beating really a problem with Americans too?” (She clarified later that she meant ‘white’ Americans, of course.) My work has borne out the statistics that domestic violence knows no race, class, or religious boundaries. However, socio-economic factors can increase vulnerability for such violence: for example, if someone has no source of income, her abuser knows that her economic situation will prevent her from speaking about the violence or seeking help.
Domestic violence is a human rights problem that exists across borders, as the Inter-American Commission recently reminded the US—It is not a ‘women’s issue’ rather affects boys and men very severely. Indeed, India’s Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, does not cover men, and most commentaries on domestic violence-including this one-refer to the perpetrators of violence as male and the victim as female. This is simply because domestic violence victims are disproportionately female. However, men can be and are victims of violence by their partners in some cases as well, both in homosexual and heterosexual relationships. Moreover, this violence does not take place in a vacuum.
Children, girls as well as boys, are witnesses to such violence. Even if they are themselves never the direct targets of the violence, they bear the emotional costs of growing up in an environment of repeated cycles of fear, escalation of tensions, outbursts of violence, and misleading periods of calm. Studies show that children who grow up in violent homes, either themselves become vulnerable to being abused as adults or have a higher likelihood of becoming abusers in the future. This ‘cycle of power and control,’ which broadly describes domestic violence, has its immediate and collateral victims.
Move beyond campaigns
Campaigns such as ‘bell bajao’ or ‘standing silent witness’ or ‘remembrance days’ focus on cases where there are identifiable victims, in already violent relationships. Some of us might then still participate in these campaigns and still claim, “We aren’t that kind of a family!”
What would truly make us not one of ‘those’ families is if we start to check our everyday responses to gender inequalities and discrimination. Unless we stop calling street harassment ‘eve teasing;’ stop worrying about protecting our girls’ reputations even at the costs of their safety; stop spending more time, money and energy on weddings than on talking about healthy relationships and marriages, we will not stop domestic violence. Only when three friends can walk with safety as well as the security of the knowledge that they will not be judged should they face harm by someone, whether on the street or in the home, can we begin to feel assured that we are progressing towards equal justice for all.
Cycle of Power and Control
Intimate partner violence or domestic violence (DV) is controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in an intimate relationship . It includes verbal, emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse.
DV usually comes to public notice only in extreme cases of physical abuse.
However, behind closed doors, such violence typically follows a regular pattern of three phases that repeat themselves:
One, the ‘tension-building’ phase. The abuser becomes increasingly irritable, moody, impatient, resulting in his partner “walking on eggshells,” not knowing what might make the abuser more angry.
Two, the ‘acute’ phase. There is some sort of explosion and violence that may be verbal, physical, and/or sexual.
Third, the ‘honeymoon’ phase. There is calm again. The abuser may apologise or pretend like nothing happened and may bring flowers and chocolates. The partner starts to feel relief. That is till the ‘tension-building’ phase begins again.
There is thus a clear difference between common, everyday disputes between couples and domestic violence.
Three things to tell someone who is facing such violence: I believe you / You are not alone /You have options
The writer is a lawyer who focuses on gender and minority issues in the United States and South Asia.
VANDANA SHUKLA IN THE TRIBUNE CHANDIGARH
The rhetoric on remedies of rape moves in circles – from capital punishment for rape to financial compensation to the victims to out of court ‘settlements’ to getting the victim married with the culprit. The woman’s need for dignity of course takes the back seat.
Despite an uninterrupted discourse on the subject over the past several decades, governments and society are yet to evolve a cast-iron system to deal with the crime and the criminals.
From the year (1971) the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) began collecting data on rape cases, it has shown an eight-fold increase. In 2008 over 21 thousand complaints were recorded in the country with various agencies conceding that over 80 per cent of the cases never get reported. Incest has shown a 30 per cent increase— these are disturbing social trends, which need to be researched and addressed. This stands in marked contrast to the other serious and violent crimes like murder, robbery, dacoity, kidnapping and rioting.
The NCRB has also concluded that only one in 69 rape cases get reported and only 20 per cent of the reported cases result in convictions.
Cash compensation ?
Compensation for rape is not a new idea. Courts have ordered for compensation to be paid under provisions contained in the statutes. Several state governments too have found it convenient to pay sums depending upon the extent of the public outrage and media exposure. But this is the first time the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has launched a country-wide scheme and has offered to reimburse the state governments the cost they incur in its implementation.
But compensation — call it restorative justice or whatever —is tricky.
It is instructive to recall the experience with Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 ( for SC and ST). Tribal and dalit victims of rape, were required to produce a certificate of their tribal/dalit status for receiving a compensation of Rs 25,000.
Getting the certificate in itself became a profit making proposition for brokers. Poverty also induced many to file false cases, thus defeating the well-meaning provision, points out Pratiksha Baxi from JNU.
The law also appears to assume unfortunately that standards of dignity are different for a woman from a well- off family and for a dalit woman. So, a dalit woman’s compensation money for rape can be shared by the rapist under the Act.
The compensation is paid if the victim belongs to either a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and the rapist does not. The law does not specify what happens if the woman is from a Scheduled Tribe and the man is from a Scheduled Caste or vice versa. Even before the Act was passed in 1989, since 1978 in UP women from SC and ST were paid compensation of Rs 5000 for rape.
The website of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt of Gujarat, lays down that for outraging the modesty of a woman under section 3(1) (11) the Government pays a compensation of Rs 50,000, but in case the accused marries the rape victim, the ‘assistance’ ( here it is not termed as compensation) of Rs 50,000 is disbursed in the joint names of the couple.
It does not require great imagination to understand how these laws end up as bait for attracting more abuse for women. The website does not offer any data on how many women actually received the compensation or assistance!
Compensation, obviously, can be paid only after the charge is established in court, which is a tall order in itself. Strangely, the scheme is sought to be justified by the need to help the victim financially so that she can fight it out in court. How this contradiction gets resolved , remains to be seen.
A study conducted by MARG in Uttar Pradesh throws up more questions.
Of the 33 registered victims or their family members the researchers spoke to, they found 13 victims were minors, 2 were six years old, one was between four and five years of age. One was 12 years old, others less than 14 years of age.
But in only four cases did the medical report confirm rape. Of the 13 minor victims, only one minor’s rape was confirmed. Two girls had the noting ‘no opinion’ and of the rest there was no medical record with the police. Yet, the compensation was ‘liberally’ sanctioned.
Although the police had no ‘medical examination report’ in their record, compensation was still sanctioned in as many as 28 cases, including nine in which there was no finding of rape. In one case the rapist and victim belonged to the same caste, hence the case was withdrawn!
The money, in case of minor victims, was received by the parents. Only two women spent Rs 2000 out of the received money to hire a lawyer.
Of the 13 minors, only four could attend school while most victims relocated to escape the stigma attached to rape. Their humiliation was compounded by the CM of U P, Mayawati , who had ordered the money to be delivered by the Director General of Police in person. He was also asked to take a helicopter and fly to various places for the purpose.
On the one hand rape cases are held in camera, on the other hand this display of ‘help’ discourages victims to report rape. The compensation, as and when paid, is often grabbed by the rest of the family, and makes the police indifferent and even more reluctant to pursue the cases. The attitude is, since the money has already been paid, why fuss over prosecution ?
In most countries, policies and laws are framed based on research based findings. But there are very few studies on the subject funded by the Government.
A few studies, mostly done by individuals who feel strongly about the issue, are however eye openers. Social activist Flavia Agnes’ study was based on observations drawn from her own legal practice and judgements involving rape cases; while Pratiksha Baxi’s ( Assistant Professor, Centre for Law and Governance, JNU, Delhi) study was based on what goes on inside the court rooms, where a 12- year- old is also asked sexually explicit questions a lawyer may hesitate putting to a 30- year-old.
Even after the much talked about Mathura case, which led to the amendment of Evidence Act in 1983, which allowed the woman’s word to be trusted for her non-consent, there has been no monitoring of judgements.
From 1860 to 2002, the colonial law based on the moral history of the woman was in application while looking at a rape victim, which meant that a woman’s sexual history would have a say on the writing of the verdict. Despite deletion of this clause, not much has changed in courtrooms.
A Google search for kanoon.com and rape cases will throw up several judgements, which are deeply patriarchal and explain why conviction rates are so abysmally low.
Doctors are surprised if the victim cooperates with them on examination (a victim is supposed to go stone-silent, weep and should have injury marks), policemen’s wives cannot complain of being raped by husbands ( because it is a husband’s right) and while the defence tries to prove that the victim is a consenting adult because anyone over 16 is thought to have given consent, judges worry about marital prospects of victims ( many rapists thus get lighter sentences when
they agree to marry their victims). Incest of course hardly ever gets reported because of the family’s insistence on silence.
Marry the rapist
Sakshi, an NGO, had released a study called ‘Gender and Judges’, in which it analysed the views of 119 judges from all over India, along with experiences of female lawyers, complainants and observations on court room trials.
Most judges found it impossible to believe that men could perpetrate the crime without any element of consent or provocation. ‘Judges were of the view that penetration of a woman is physically impossible without her ‘consent’ and that in any case women are ‘partially to blame for such abuse.’
Another ludicrous idea often encouraged by the judiciary is that of compromise. Whenever witnesses turn hostile, victims are advised to accept a compromise, which the court witnesses, but is unable and unwilling to act upon.
The court thus ‘restores’ her chastity in the public eye. Fortunately, the courts are prohibited from compounding a rape case. Being a non-compoundable offence, compromise in rape cases has been confined to the bargains between community elders, victims’ kin, local authorities and the police, with judges looking the other way for the most part.
Women are often subjugated by men in power. In the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case, the protector, an IG, Haryana Police, S P Rathore became the tormentor. After 19 years, 40 adjournments, and more than 400 hearings, the court finally pronounced him guilty under Section 354 and gave him six months imprisonment.
In case of Anjana Mishra, it was the Advocate General of Orissa, Indrajit Roy, who attempted to rape her when she went to seek his help for getting custody of her children in 1998. Since she dared to report the case, she was gang-raped by three men, to teach her a ‘lesson.’ Roy was given anticipatory bail but was never arrested due to his political clout. Under public pressure when he finally resigned, his junior was made AG, putting Anjana in her place.
It is reminiscent of Bhanwri Devi’s case, a Sathin volunteer in Rajasthan, when she tried to stop a child marriage in 1992, she was gang raped by five men, including Ramkaran Gujjar, whose daughter’s marriage she had tried to stop. The male doctor at the primary health centre refused to conduct medical examination and at a Jaipur hospital the doctor certified only her age. Subjected to sustained humiliation, she was asked by the policemen to leave her lehenga as an evidence of rape. Bhanwri’s case inspired Visakha case, which brought about legislation against sexual exploitation of women at work place but Bhanwri could not get justice in a caste -ridden system.
Society must change first
I enacted the role of a rape victim in three films; Bawandar, Pitah and Laal Salaam. So, I can claim to have some idea of what a woman goes through in a situation like gang- rape. While shooting the gang-rape scene for Bawandar, I saw some members of the crew nudging each other with suppressed and suggestive giggles, and I screamed. It was something I never do. But I felt violated. This was just an enactment, after all. I could immediately empathise with what an actual victim has to go through.
It is sad the way we treat this kind of abuse of women—with total disregard for the feelings of a woman. The society has to change—this is not something outside us, they come from within us. We need to shame the perpetrators, we need to talk more and more—in the open about these issues because, as we know, a rapist gets caught usually after a number of successful or unsuccessful attempts. What makes the rapist so daring is the silence of the women.
As far as monetary compensation is concerned, it finds justification in offering help to the victim to fight her case legally, which is often long-drawn. Otherwise it becomes like the flesh-trade. One must understand that the person is scarred for the rest of her life, simply because we have shrouded a crime under such weight of shame for so long that we do not want to deal with it.
What’s wrong if state takes responsibility?
There was a time when, after the Bhawnri Devi case, women’s groups demanded compensation, because Bhawnri was raped in the course of carrying out her duties as a government functionary, albeit an informal one (she was paid not as an employee but as a volunteer, something that enables the govt. to pay less than the minimum wage); therefore she was entitled to compensation. She was eventually given compensation but she did not use it, it created more problems for her— the community started saying rape was an excuse for taking money… so there is that element also. But if the state takes responsibility, then that can’t be altogether a bad thing
VIOLATIONS UNDER THE PNDT ACT AND THE PENALTIES
THE PNDT ACT
Non-availability of copy of the PNDT Act in the registered centre
Non- Display of registration certificate in the centre.
Non-Display of Board in the premises in English and Local Language that ‘Disclosure of the sex of the foetus is prohibited under law’.
Rule No. 17(2)
Rule No. 6(2)
Rule No. 17(1)
|For Minor Offences:
Case may be launched in the court of JMIC u/s 25 of the Act. Punishment may extend to 3 months or with fine, which may extend to Rs. 1,000/-for first offence. Additional fine upto Rs. 500/- per day for the period of contravention for subsequent offence.
Show cause notice u/s 20(1),(2) for temporary suspension of registration.
Under Section 20(3)
|2. Advertisement relating to pre-conception and pre-natal determination of sex.||Section 22(1), (2).||U/s 22(3) of the PNDT Amendment Act, imprisonment which may extend to 3 years and with fine which may extend to Rs. 10,000/-.
Case is to be launched in the court u/s 28 of the Act
|3. Unregistered centres. It includes all such centres where any portable equipment capable of detecting sex before or after conception is used. The owner of such equipment may be having a registered facility somewhere else.||Section 3||Any such equipment has to be sealed and seized by the Appropriate Authority concerned. He/She may
Launch the case in the court u/s 28 of the Act.
Register such centre after receiving 5 times the registration fee as penalty and after taking a undertaking as per the PNDT Rules-Rule 11(2).
|4. Irregularities in registered centre
Owner/employee conducting the ultrasonography not qualified.
More ultra sound Machines /equipments where
as less number register.
Minor deficiency in record
Section 3(2) and Rule 3(b).
Under Rule 4.6 and as per Form ‘A’. Sr. No. 8
Under rule 9.
|The Appropriate Authority or person authorized thereupon may:
Issue show cause notice u/s 20(1)(2) of the Act and with the endorsement of the Advisory Committee, may suspend (for a reasonable period) or cancel the registration, as per the magnitude of the violation.
May take Suo Moto action u/s 20(3) and suspend the registration without issuing show cause notice.
1.During the period of suspension of registration, the equipment needs to be sealed and signed and kept with the owner. After cancellation of the registration, the equipment has to be sealed and seized.
Any body aggrieved by the above decision may appeal to the higher-level Appropriate Authority within 30 days of the action. The appeal shall be disposed of by the higher authority within 60 days of its receipt.
Irregularities in record keeping as per revised form ‘F’ are a major offence.
|Section 4, 29 and Rule-9.||Contravention (a major offence) of provision of section 5 and 6 of the Act and punishable U/s 23(1) of the PNDT Act.|
|6. Sex Selection||Section 3A. 4(5). 6 read with section 2(0)||Violation of section 5 and 6 of the Act and punishable u/s 23 of the Act.|
1. All offences under the Act are cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable (Section 27).
Even a case has been registered by the police, no court shall take cognizance except the complaint has been filed by the AA or by the person/group who had served a legal notice of 15 days to the AA already (section 28).
Action u/s 20 and filing of criminal complaint u/s 28 can go simultaneously (section 20).
The Supreme Court has issued notice to all States and Union of India on the issue of Rehabilitation. This is the right time we thought seriously about rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking. We don’t need to think about ifs and buts- it is time for action.
Ravi Kant , Advocate Supreme Court of India & President, Shakti Vahini
Recently the Supreme Court had issued notice to all states while noting down the concern on the pathetic conditions of Sex Workers:
“ Although we have dismissed this Appeal, we strongly feel that the Central and the State Governments through Social Welfare Boards should prepare schemes for rehabilitation all over the country for physically and sexually abused women commonly known as prostitutes as we are of the view that the prostitutes also have a right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India since they are also human beings and their problems also need to be addressed. As already observed by us, a woman is compelled to indulge in prostitution not for pleasure but because of abject poverty. If such a woman is granted opportunity to avail some technical or vocational training, she would be able to earn her livelihood by such vocational training and skill instead of by selling her body. Hence, we direct the Central and the State Governments to prepare schemes for giving technical/vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women in all cities in India. The schemes should mention in detail who will give the technical/vocational training and in what manner they can be rehabilitated and settled by offering them employment. For instance, if a technical training is for some craft like sewing garments, etc. then some arrangements should also be made for providing a market for such garments, otherwise they will remain unsold and unused, and consequently the women will not be able to feed herself.
We propose to have the response of the Centre and the States in this regard and hence the case shall be listed before us again on 04.05.2011 to be taken up as first case on which date the first compliance report indicating therein the first steps taken by the Central and the State Governments in this regard shall be submitted. Issue notice to the Central Government and all the State Governments which will also file responses by the date fixed for hearing.”
The court was expressing anguish and concern about failure of the Union of India and the States to effectively implement the National Plan of Action 1998 to combat trafficking and Rehabilitation has caused irreparable damage to lakhs of victims who have been caught in this illegal trade. The applicants states that this Honourable Court in Gaurav Jain Vs Union of India keeping in view of the legislative inertia and the consequent failure of the government directed that a high level committee be constituted to make an indepth study of these problems and to evolve such guidelines to protect the rights and interest of victims of sexual exploitation. It also laid down certain guidelines and further directed that a high level committee be constituted to make an indepth study of these problems and to evolve such suitable schemes as are appropriate and consistent with the guidelines.
The central government pursuant to the directions issued by this Honurable Court in Gaurav Jain case constituted a “Committee on the Prostitution , Child Prostitutes & Plan of Action to combat trafficking and commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children”. In 1998 a Report containing an Action Plan was prepared by the Department of Women and Child Government of India . Apart from the highlighting the problems faced in addressing issues of commercial sexual exploitation which are set out hereinafter detailed recommendations were made with a view to arrest the systematic problem , including issues relating to law enforcement and legal reforms.
The above recommendations have not been implemented. In fact there has never been any serious attempt by Respondents to address the issues /recommendations made by the committee. Further the Action Plan does not have any budgetary or non budgetary support from the Government. The petitioner believes that there has been no study relating to the economic cost of implementing the recommendation and the sources through which such costs could be met. In the years from 2001- 2010 the Government of India has focused its initiatives on the issue to combat trafficking. It has formulated the Swadhar and Ujjwala initiatives which are primarily aimed at rehabilitation of trafficked victims. The Government of India in 2010 has formed special Anti Human Trafficking Units across the country under the Ministry of Home Affairs . Apart from the above mentioned initiatives the respondents have failed miserably to formulate special schemes for rehabilitation of women who are in prostitution and also failed to implement the guidelines which were formulated in the National Plan of Action 1998 for rehabilitation of women in the red light area.
The Govt of India , UNIFEM and National Human Rights Commission undertook a study on the issue of Human Trafficking and to propose recommendations to combat this crime. The NHRC report came out with a set of recommendations which have till date not been complied with. The failure to implement the measures set out in 1998 Plan of Action and also the recommendations of the NHRC report has caused severe injury and prejudice to the victims of prostitution . The legislative deficit, coupled by callousness displayed by the respondents continues to ruin the lives of lakhs of women who are caught up in the Illegal Sex Trade being openly run from the red light areas. The respondents have failed and neglected to accept responsibility and discharge their duty as mandated by law.
Due to the callous attitude of the Union of India and the various state governments the trade in the red light area has been thriving. Combined with lax law enforcement and insufficient support structures the trafficking in Human Beings is on the increase. It is due to the problem of trafficking the victims are forcefully pushed into this illegal and viscous trade. The victims are mostly minors when they are brought and are sold to the organized crime thriving in the red light areas. From there these victims are tortured and forced into prostitution. The victims are kept in bonded conditions and are forced to live a life of bondage , sexual slavery , repeated and forced rape , deprivation of basic human rights and hidden away from law enforcement agencies. The victims after repeated human rights violation , continued torture and bodily harm are forced to do and act as there captors desire. These victims are then forced to cater to ten to fifteen men each day . This bonded conditions continue for at least seven to ten years or until the victim can be rescued. The seven to ten years of bonded and sexual slavery is serious violation of Article 23 (3) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India. During this period the victims is forced to suffer repeated rape ten to fifteen times and also during this process of forced and sexual slavery the victim also gets exposed to Sexually Transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. The economics of the illegal trade of human misery and also the the exploitation has been vividly explained in the NHRC / UNIFEM
The victim after immense suffering and years of exploitation and sexual slavery multiplied with lax law enforcement is left with no choice but to continue in the illegal trade. The victims cannot return to their homes for the fear of stigma and shame. They are left to their pathetic situations. Some of them are forced to continue in the trade and many with no choice left become part and parcel of the illegal trade. The Victims continue to suffer and with no rehabilitation or support from the government are left to beg and die in utter neglect. They don’t even venture out as they will be further exploited. Thus the suffering and violation of basic human rights and fundamental rights continue .
The Honourable Court in VishalJeet Vs Union of India explained the pathetic situation of the victims:
“No denying the fact that prostitution always remains as a running sore in the body of civilisation and destroys all moral values. The causes and evil effects of prostitution maligning the society are so notorious and frightful that none can gainsay it. This malignity is daily and hourly threatening the community at large slowly but steadily making its way onwards leaving a track marked with broken hopes. Therefore, the necessity for appropriate and drastic action to eradicate this evil has become apparent but its successful consummation ultimately rests with the public at large.
It is highly deplorable and heart-rending to note that many poverty stricken children and girls in the prime of youth are taken to ’flesh market’ and forcibly pushed into the ’flesh trade’ which is being carried on in utter violation of all cannons of morality, decency and dignity of humankind. There cannot be two opinions–indeed there is none–that this obnoxious and abominable crime committed with all kinds of unthinkable vulgarity should be eradicated at all levels by drastic steps.”
The Honurable Supreme Court in Vishaljeet Vs Union of India laid down certain guidelines for eradication of the malady :
This devastating malady can be suppressed and eradicated only if the law enforcing authorities in that regard take very severe and speedy legal action against all the erring persons such as pimps, brokers and brothel keepers. The Courts in such cases have to always take a serious view of this matter and inflict consign punishment on proof of such offences. Apart from legal action, both the Central and the State Government who have got an obligation to safeguard the interest and welfare of the children and girls of this country have to evaluate various measures and implement them in the right direction.Bhagwati, J. (as he then was) in Lakshmi Kant Pandey v.Union of India,  2 SCC 244 while emphasizing the importance of children has expressed his view thus: “It is obvious that in a civilized society the importance of child welfare cannot be over-emphasized, because the welfare of the entire community, its growth and development, depend on the health and well-being of its children. Children are a ’supremely important national asset’ and the future wellbeing of the nation depends on how its children grow and develop.”
We, after bestowing our deep and anxious consideration on this matter feel that it would be appropriate if certain directions are given in this regard. Accordingly, we make the following directions:
1. All the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should direct their concerned law enforcing authorities to take appropriate and speedy action under the existing laws in eradicating child prostitution without giving room for any complaint of remissness or culpable indifference.
2. The State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should set up a separate Advisory Committee within their respective zones consisting of the secretary of the Social Welfare Department or Board, the Secretary of the Law Department, sociologists, criminologists, members of the women’s organisations, members of Indian Council of Child Welfare and Indian Council of Social Welfare as well the members of various voluntary social organisations and associations etc., the main objects of the Advisory Committee being to make suggestions of:
(a) the measures to be taken in eradicating the child prostitution, and
(b) the social welfare programmes to be implemented for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of the young fallen victims namely the children and girls rescued either from the brothel houses or from the vices of prostitution.
3. All the State Governments and the Governments of Union Territories should take steps in providing adequate and rehabilitative homes manned by well-qualified trained social workers, psychiatarists and doctors.
4. The Union Government should set up a committee of its own in the line, we have suggested under direction No.(2) the main object of which is to evolve welfare programmes to be implemented on the national level for the care, protection, rehabilitation etc. etc. of the young fallen victims namely the children and girls and to make suggestions of amendments to the existing laws or for enactment of any new law, if so warranted for the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
5. The Central Government and the Governments of States and Union Territories should devise a machinery of its own for ensuring the proper implementation of the suggestions that would be made by the respective committees.
6. The Advisory Committee can also go deep into devadasi system and Jogin tradition and give their valuable advice and suggestions as to what best the Government could do in that regard.
7. The copies of the affidavits and the list containing the names of 9 girls are directed to be forwarded to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi for necessary action. We may add that we are not giving an exhaustive list of the members for the constitution of the committee. Therefore, it is open to the concerned Government to include any member or members in the committee as it deems necessary.
We hope and trust that he directions given by us will go a long way towards eradicating the malady of child prostitution, Devadasi system and Jogin tradition and will also at the same time protect and safeguard the interests of the children by preventing of the sexual abuse and exploitation.
The Honourable Supreme Court in Gaurav Jain vs Union of India had keeping in view the legislative inertia and the consequent failure of the Government to protect the rights and interest of the victims ,laid down certain guidelines and further directed high level committee be constituted to make an indepth study of these problems and to evolve such suitable schemes as are appropriate and consistent with the guidelines. The Supreme Court realizing the enormity of the problem and the need to urgently mend the systematic and symbolic failures proceeded to give further directions in the manner as follows:
“The Minister of Welfare, Government of India will constitute a Committee consisting of the Secretary in charge of Department of Women the Child Development as the chairperson and three or four Secretaries from the concerned State Governments, to be nominated by the Minister of Welfare. They would make an in-depth study into these problems and evolve such suitable schemes as are appropriate and consistent with the directions given above. The Committee should be constituted within one month from the date of the receipt of this judgment. The Committee should finalise the report within three months thereafter. As soon as the report is submitted. the same may be communicated to all the State Governments and the concerned Ministries for their examination. Within two month from date of the communication, the Minister of Welfare, Government of India, in coordination with the Prime Minister Office should convene a meeting presided over by the Prime Minister, with Minister of Welfare, Home Minister, Human Resource Minister, the concerned Minister, Human Resource Minister, the concerned Ministers of the State Governments and their Secretaries as well to discuss the problem and take decision. The Committee should finalise the report with further suggestions or amendments, if suggested in the conference. Thereafter, the report should be finalised and then direction would be given to the State Governments for effective implementation of the schemes. The nodal Department would enforce and regularly be supervised by the Ministry of Welfare, Government of India. A permanent Committee of Secretaries should be constituted to review the progress of the implementation on annual basis, and to take such other steps as may be expedient in the effective implementation of the schemes. Periodical progress as to funding and enforcement of the scheme should be submitted to the Registry of this Court. If further directions would be needed, liberty is given to the parties to approach this Court. In that view of the matter, it is believed and hoped that the above law and directions would relieve the human problem by rehabilitation of the unfortunate fallen women cought in the trap of prostitution ; their children would be brought into the mainstream of the social order ; these directions would enable them to avail the equality of opportunity and of status, with dignity of person which are the arch of the Constitution.”
The Advisory committee formed pursuant to the judgement of this Honourable Court in Vishal Jeet vs Union of India have remained defunct and many states have not even convened meetings of the committee. The Central Advisory Committee formed by the Government of India , Ministry of Women and Child has been meeting regularly since 2005 and has been addressing the problems of trafficking. Though the committee has not focused on the issue of rehabilitation of women in prostitution. These committees were formed with the intention to promote inter department cooperation and approach the problem in a unified manner.
When Shakti Vahini (Writ Petition 190 0f 2002) had petitioned to the Supreme Court that such committees were not functional and pursuant to the Supreme Court notice many governments had formed the committees just to file affidavits in the Supreme Court. After that again these committees became non functional. The National Plan of Action 1998 formed pursuant to the Honourable Supreme Court order has remained a dead document as nothing much has been done for the emancipation of women victims.
The National Human Rights Commission in 2006 has also framed a Plan of Action to combat Trafficking but the same has also remained as a dead document. The Government of India has initiated several initiatives in collaboration with NGOs to combat trafficking and has also formed a special cell in the Ministry of home Affairs , Government of India as the Nodal Agency for the Anti Human trafficking Units. The law enforcement agencies are also being sensitized on the issue of Trafficking and several modules for police trainings have been formulated by United Nations office on Drugs and Crimes ( UNODC) , Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) and Ministry of Home Affairs. The Union of India in collaboration with NGOs has launched Ujjwala and Swadhar Schemes which are more focused towards trafficked children and as short stay homes.
The Government of India unfortunately has till date not devised any proper scheme for rehabilitation for women in prostitution so that they can become part of the mainstream.
Ratification of the UN Protocol on Human Trafficking
The Government of India has recently ratified the UN Protocol . This also implies that Government of India formally adopting definition of Human Trafficking which is :“Trafficking in persons” which shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
The UN Protocol makes Human Trafficking and Smuggling a organised crime and call upon states to provide victim support , victim repatriation , witness support and protection , Joint Investigations between member nations etc. It specially calls upon nations to ensure implementing measures to provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims of trafficking in persons, including, in appropriate cases, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, other relevant organizations and other elements of civil society, and, in particular, the provision of: (a) Appropriate housing; (b) Counselling and information, in particular as regards their legal rights, in a language that the victims of trafficking in persons can understand; (c) Medical, psychological and material assistance; and (d) Employment, educational and training opportunities. It mandates nations to ensure that take into account the age, gender and special needs of victims of trafficking in persons, in particular the special needs of children, including appropriate housing, education and care. It also provides for nations to provide for the physical safety of victims of trafficking in persons while they are within its territory and ensure that its domestic legal system contains measures that offer victims of trafficking in persons the possibility of obtaining compensation for damage suffered. It takes a commitment from nations that they shall establish comprehensive policies, programmes and other measures inter alia to prevent and combat trafficking in persons; and (b) to protect victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, from revictimization. States Parties shall endeavour to undertake measures such as research, information and mass media campaigns and social and economic initiatives to prevent and combat trafficking in persons. Policies, programmes and other measures established in accordance with this article shall, as appropriate, include cooperation with non-governmental organizations, other relevant organizations and other elements of civil society.States Parties shall take or strengthen measures, including through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, to alleviate the factors that make persons, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking, such as poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity. States Parties shall adopt or strengthen legislative or other measures, such as educational, social or cultural measures, including through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking.
It mandates that nations shall, as appropriate, cooperate with one another by exchanging information, in accordance with their domestic law, to enable them to determine: (a) whether individuals crossing or attempting to cross an international border with travel documents belonging to other persons or without travel documents are perpetrators or victims of trafficking in persons; the types of travel document that individuals have used or attempted to use to cross an international border for the purpose of trafficking in persons; and the means and methods used by organized criminal groups for the purpose of trafficking in persons, including the recruitment and transportation of victims, routes and links between and among individuals and groups engaged in such trafficking, and possible measures for detecting them.
It ensures that nations shall provide or strengthen training for law enforcement, immigration and other relevant officials in the prevention of trafficking in persons. The training should focus on methods used in preventing such trafficking, prosecuting the traffickers and protecting the rights of the victims, including protecting the victims from the traffickers. The training should also take into account the need to consider human rights and child- and gender-sensitive issues and it should encourage cooperation with nongovernmental organizations, other relevant organizations and other elements of civil society.
The Government of India and the various states have failed in their duty as the problem of prostitution is a serious violation of Fundamental Rights as enshrined in Article 21 and Article 23 of the Constitution of India. India is also a signatory to international conventions such as the Convention on Rights of the Child (1989), Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2000) and the latest South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution (2002). The Constitutional , International, Statutory obligations and orders of the Honourable Supreme Court makes it mandatory for the Government of India and the different state Government to combat this heinous organised crime and also to provide support to the victims of Prostitution.
Rehabilitation / Compensation approach
The Supreme Court in Bandhua Mukti Morcha 1984 (3) SCC 161 has elucidated the rehabilitation of Bonded Labour and directed the Government to award compensation to Bonded labour under the provisions of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 after taking note of serious violation of Fundamental & Human Rights :
“The other question arising out of the implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 is that of rehabilitation of the released bonded labourers and that is also a question of the greatest importance, because if the bonded labourers who are identified and freed, are not rehabilitated, their condition would be much worse than what it was before during the period of their serfdom and they would become more exposed to exploitation and slide back once again into serfdom even in the absence of any coercion.
The bonded labourer who is released would prefer slavery to hunger, a world of ‘bondage and (illusory) security’ as against a world of freedom and starvation. The State Governments must therefore concentrate on rehabilitation of bonded labour and evolve effective programmes for this purpose. Indeed they are under an obligation to do so under the provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976. It may be pointed out that the concept of rehabilitation has the following four main features as admirably set out in the letter dated 2nd September 1982 addressed by the Secretary. Ministry of Labour, Government of India to the various States Governments:
(i) Psychological rehabilitation must go side by side with physical and economic rehabilitation;
(ii) The physical and economic rehabilitation has 15 major components namely allotment of house-sites and agricultural land, land development, provision of low cost dwelling units, agriculture, provision of credit, horticulture, animal husbandry, training for acquiring 134 new skills and developing existing skills, promoting traditional arts and crafts, provision of wage employment and enforcement of minimum wages, collection and processing of minor forest produce, health medical care and sanitation supply of essential commodities, education of children of bonded labourers and protection civil rights;
(iii) There is scope for bringing about an integration among the various central and centrally sponsored schemes and the on-going schemes of the State Governments for a more qualitative rehabilitation. The essence of such integration is to avoid duplication i.e. pooling resources from different sources for the same purpose. It should be ensured that while funds are not drawn from different sources for the same purpose drawn from different sectors for different components of the rehabilitation scheme are integrated skillfully;and
(iv) While drawing up any scheme/programme of rehabilitation of freed bonded labour, the latter must necessarily be given the choice between the various alternatives for their rehabilitation and such programme should be finally selected for execution as would need the total requirements of the families of freed bonded labourers to enable them to cross the poverty line on the one hand and to prevent them from sliding back to debt bondage on the other.
We would therefore direct the Government of Haryana to draw up a scheme on programme for “a better and more meaningful rehabilitation of the freed bonded labourers” in the light of the above guidelines set out by the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Labour in his letter dated 2nd September 1982. The other State Governments are not parties before us and hence we cannot give any direction to them, but we hope and trust that they will also take suitable steps for the purpose of securing identification, release and rehabilitation of bonded labourers on the lines indicated by us in this Judgment.”
The compensation since 1978 has undergone a change and presently the compensation is Rs20,000 and access to Government schemes of poverty alleviation and also housing under Indira Awas Yojana .
Supreme Court in MC Mehta vs State of Tamil Nadu and Others – Writ Petition (Civil) No.465/1986 seeing the severe violation of fundamental rights in cases of child labour laid down guidelines for compensation and rehabilitation :
“ It may be that the problem would be taken care of to some extent by insisting on compulsory education. Indeed, Neera thinks that if there is at all a blueprint for tackling the problem of child labour, it is education. Even if it were to be so, the child of a poor parent would not receive education, if per force it has to earn to make the family meet both the ends. therefore, unless the family is assured of income allude, problem of child labour would hardly get solved; and it is this vital question which has remained almost unattended. We are, however, of the view that till an alternative income is assured to the family, the question of abolition of child labour would really remain a will-o’-the wisp. Now, if employment of child below that age of 14 is a constitutional indication insofar as work in any factory or mine or engagement in other hazardous work, and if it has to be seen that all children are given education till the age of 14 years in view of this being a fundamental right now, and if the wish embodied in Article 39(e) that the tender age of children is not abused and citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocation unsuited to their age, and if children are to be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and childhood is to be protected against exploitation as visualised by Article 39(f), it seems to us that the least we ought to do is see to the fulfillment of legislative intendment behind enactment of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. Taking guidance therefrom, we are of the view that the offending employer must be asked to pay compensation for every child employed in contravention of the provisions of the Act a sum of Rs.20,000/-; and the Inspectors, whose appointment is visualised by section 17 to secure compliance with the provisions of the Act, should do this job. The inspectors appointed under section 17 would see that for each child employed in violation of the provisions of the Act, the concerned employer pays Rs.20,000/- which sum could be deposited in a fund to be known as Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund. The liability of the employer would not cease even if he would desire to disengage the child presently employed. It would perhaps be appropriate to have such a fund district wise or area wise. The fund so generated shall form corpus whose income shall be used only for the concerned child. The quantum could be the income earned on the corpus deposited qua the child. To generate greater income, fund can be deposited in high yielding scheme of any nationalised bank or other public body.
As the aforesaid income could not be enough to dissuade the parent/guardian to seek employment of the child, the State owes a duty to come forward to discharge its obligation in this regard. After all, the aforementioned constitutional provisions have to be implemented by the appropriate Government, which expression has been defined in section 2(i) of the Act to mean, in relation to establishment under the control of the Central Government or a railway administration or a major port of a mine or oil field, the Central Government, and in all other cases, the State Government.
Now, strictly speaking a strong case exists to invoke the and of an Article 41 of the Constitution regarding the right to work and to give meaning to what has been provided in Article 47 relating to raising of standard of living of the population, and Articles 39(e) and (f) as to non-abuse of tender age of children and giving opportunities and facilities to them to develop in healthy manner, for asking the State to see that an adult member of the family, whose child is in employment in a factory or a mine or in other hazardous work, gets a job anywhere, in lieu of the child. This would also see the fulfillment of the wish contained in Article 41 after about half a century of its being in the paramount parchment, like primary education desired by Article 45, having been given the status of fundamental right by the decision in Unni Krishnan. We are, however, not asking the State at this stage to ensure alternative employment in every case covered by Article 24, as Article 41 speaks about right to work “within the limits of the economic capacity and development of the State”. The very large number of child-labour in the aforesaid occupations would require giving of job to very large number of adults, if we were to ask the appropriate Government to assure alternative employment in every case, which would strain the resources of the State, in case it would not have been able to secure job for an adult in a private sector establishment or, for that matter, in a public sector organisation., we are not issuing any direction to do so presently. Instead, we leave the matter to be sorted out by the appropriate Government. In those cases where it would not be possible to provide job as above-mentioned, the appropriate Government would, as its contribution/grant, deposit in the aforesaid Fund a sum of Rs.5,000/- for each child employed in a factory or mine or in any other hazardous employment.
The aforesaid would either see an adult (whose name would be suggested by the parent/guardian of the concerned child) getting a job in lieu of the child, or deposit of a sum of Rs.25,000/- in the Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum- Welfare Fund. In case of getting employment for an adult, the parent/guardian shall have to see that his child is spared from the requirement to do the job, as an alternative source of income would have become available to him.”
The Supreme Court in Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum Vs. Union India and others writ petition (CRL) No.362/93 in recognition of severe violation of Fundamental rights of Rape Victims had directed the National Commission Women to evolve a “scheme so as to wipe out the tears of unfortunate victims of rape’’. The Supreme Court observed that having regard to the Directive Principles contained in Article of the Constitution, it was necessary to set up a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, as rape victims besides the mental anguish, frequently incur substantial financial and in some cases are too traumatized to continue in employment.
“ In this background, we think it necessary to indicate the broad parameters in assisting the victims of rape.The complainants of sexual assault cases should be provided with legal representation. It is important to have someone who is well- acquainted with the criminal justice system. The role of the victim’s advocate would not only be to explain to the victim the nature of the proceedings, to prepare her for the case and to assist her in the police station and in court but to provide her with guidance as to how she might obtain help of a different nature from other agencies, for example, mind counseling or medical assistance. It is important to secure continuity of assistance by ensuring that the same person who looked after the complainant’s interests in the police station represent her till the end of the case.
(2) Legal assistance will have to be provided at the police station since the victim of sexual assault might very well be in a distressed state upon arrival at the police station, the guidance and support of a lawyer at this stage and whilst she was being questioned would be of great assistance to her.
(3)The police should be under a duty to inform the victim of her right to representation before any questions were asked of her and that the police report should state that the victim was so informed.
(4) A list of advocates willing to act in these cases should be kept at the police station for victims who did not have a particular lawyer in mind or whose own lawyer was unavailable.
(5)The advocate shall be appointed by the court, upon application by the police at the earliest convenient moment, but in order to ensure that victims were questioned without undue delay, advocates would be authorised to act at the police station before leave of the court was sought or obtained.
(6)In all rape trials anonymity of the victim must be maintained, as far as necessary.
(7)It is necessary, having regard to the Directive Principles contained under Article 38(1) of the Constitution of India to set up Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Rape victims frequently incur substantial financial loss. Some, for example, are too traumatised to continue in employment.
(8) Compensation for victims shall be awarded by the court on conviction of the offender and by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board whether or not a conviction has taken place. The Board will take into account pain, suffering and shock as well as loss of earnings due to pregnancy and the expenses of child birth if this occurred as a result of the rape.
16. On this aspect of the matter we can usefully refer to the following passage from The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (1994 Edn.) at pages 1237-38 as to the position in England:
”Compensation payable by the offender was introduced in the Criminal Justice Act, 1972 which gave the Courts powers to make an ancillary order for compensation in addition to the main penalty in cases where ‘injury, loss, or damage’ had resulted. The Criminal Justice Act, 1982 made it possible for the first time to make a compensation order as the sole penalty. It also required that in cases where fines and compensation orders were given together, the payment of compensation should take priority over the fine. These developments signified a major shift in penological thinking, reflecting the growing importance attached to restitution and reparation over the more narrowly retributive aims of conventional punishment. The Criminal Justice Act, 1988 furthered this shift. It required courts to consider the making of a compensation order in every case of death, injury, loss or damage and, where such an order was not given, impose a duty on the court to give reasons for not doing so. it also extended the range of injuries eligible for compensation. These new requirements mean that if the court fails to make a compensation order it must furnish reasons. Where reasons are given, the victim may apply for these to be subject to judicial review ….
The 1991 Criminal Justice Act contains a number of provisions which directly or indirectly encourage an even greater role for compensation.”
17.Section 10 of the Act states that the National Commission for men shall perform all or any of the following functions, namely:, (a) Investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws. (b) Call for special studies or investigations into specific problems or situations arising out of discrimination and atrocities against women and identify the constraints so as to recommend strategies for their removal.
18. Having regard to the above provisions, the third respondent will have to evolve such scheme as to wipe out the tears of such unfortunate victims. such a scheme shall be prepared within six months from the date of this judgment. Thereupon, the Union of India, will examine the same and shall necessary steps for the implementation of the scheme at the earliest.
The National Commission for Women pursuant to the orders of the Honourable Supreme Court has drafted a scheme for Compensation. Some states have already started the implementation of the scheme. The scheme The scheme has proposed a compensation of Rs2 to Rs3 Lakhs for Rape victims.
The Government of India has recently amended the The Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 as amended by The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act 2008 ( 5 of 2009) has now an added provision in the form of the section 357-A on victim compensation.
“357A. Victim compensation scheme. — (1) Every State Government in co-ordination with the Central Government shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who, require rehabilitation.
(2) Whenever a recommendation is made by the Court for compensation, the District Legal Service Authority or the State Legal Service Authority, as the case may be, shall decide the quantum of compensation to be awarded under the scheme referred to in sub-section (1).
(3) If the trial Court, at the conclusion of the trial, is satisfied, that the compensation awarded under section 357 is not adequate for such rehabilitation, or where the cases end in acquittal or discharge and the victim has to be rehabilitated, it may make recommendation for compensation.
(4) Where the offender is not traced or identified, but the victim is identified, and where no trial takes place, the victim or his dependents may make an application to the State or the District Legal Services Authority for award of compensation.
(5) On receipt of such recommendations or on the application under sub-section
(4), the State or the District Legal Services Authority shall, after due enquiry award adequate compensation by completing the enquiry within two months.
(6) The State or the District Legal Services Authority, as the case may be, to alleviate the suffering of the victim, may order for immediate first-aid facility or medical benefits to be made available free of cost on the certificate of the police officer not below the rank of the officer in charge of the police station or a Magistrate of the area concerned, or any other interim relief as the appropriate authority deems fit.”.
Article 23of the Constitution of India prohibits ,”Traffic in Human Beings” this Honourable Court has held that the expression “Traffic in Person” in Article 23(1) of the Constitution of India is evidently a very wide expression which includes the prohibition of traffic in women for immoral and other purposes . In the case of women in prostitution the failure to implement the National Plan of Action drafted pursuant to the Judgement in Gaurav Jain vs Union of India has resulted in serious deprivation of fundamental rights.
The trafficked victims and women in prostitution go through serious fundamental rights violation which includes bondage and sexual slavery and repeated rape and gang rape. The crimes are very serious in nature which results in deprivation of Fundamental Rights and therefore the state is liable. As mentioned above this Honourable Court has already ordered compensation in Bonded Labour and for victims of Rape , the victims of Human Trafficking and women in Prostitution also are eligible for compensation from the State.
The failiure of the Union of India and the State Governments to draft a suitable rehabilitation scheme for women in prostitution is a serious violation of orders of this Honourable Court and also violation and deprivation of Article 21 and Article 23(1) of the Constitution of India. Article 23 read with Article 39, 41 and 42 together constitute inalienable rights and the failure to grant such right would constitute deprivation of basic fundamental rights. The problem of trafficking and prostitution is also serious violation of Article 14 , Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
A way forward – Suggested Recommendations
Shakti Vahini after held several meetings with women victims of the red light area of GB Road on the issue of Rehabilitation after the Honourable Supreme Court issued notice to the Union of India and all states in the present case. The victims have provided suggestions as to how the State can formulate schemes which can help them to reintegrate back to the society. The victims have also come out with suggestions so that they can be reintegrated in the society and also be rehabilitated which are as follows:
1. Compensation to be paid for serious violation and deprivation of Fundamental rights.
2. The women in prostitution are in bondage condition for several years . As a result there is a serious loss of identity and the organised crime changes their names frequently. This ultimately leads to having no identity and hence access to government schemes and government facilities are completely not available to the Victims. The Government of India and the State Government should at once issue identity cards , Ration Cards , UID Cards so that domicile can be proved. Without these documents the women have no approach to the government facilities.
3) The Women victims of prostitution and Human Trafficking undergo serious violation of Fundamental rights and are forced to live a life of sexual slavery and bondage. They have no source of income and they should be treated as Below Poverty Line. This will enable them to access the schemes for Poverty Alleviation.
4) Most of the victims of Human Trafficking and Women in Prostitution belong to the lower strata of the society and are tribals and belong to the SC and ST communities. The schemes for alleviation of these communities should be open to all those victims who belong to such communities
5) The Government should provide schemes for training and Income generation programme and also link these schemes with Nationalised Banks and agencies like Rashtriya Mahila Kosh . The training provided should encourage entrepreneurship and this needs to be supported by easy and low interest credit. Services of NGOs can be asked to provide mentor support.
6) The victims of trafficking and prostitution who want to leave the place should be provided residential facilities and rehabilitation scheme as soon as possible.
7) All schemes of social security and Health facilities should be accessible to victims of trafficking.
Legal aid and legal support should be provided to the victims .
9) States in destination area should also accept responsibility of victims as they are liable because their fundamental rights violation has taken in the destination areas. This is because many a times states pass on the responsibility of the victims on the home state and the home states accepts no responsibility.
10) The present schemes of swadhar and Ujjwala are completely irrelevant compared to the magnanimity of the crime.
11) Any scheme devised by the Government of India should have strong budgetary support.
12) The victims of trafficking and women in prostitution categorically state they are victims of organised crime and have landed in this situation due to they were forced in this situation. They all agree that in no case prostitution should be allowed or regulated.
13) Government should frame stringent laws to convict traffickers who indulge in trafficking of women and children. The Law enforcement agencies should take action against such criminals.
14) The whole illegal business of prostitution is run by organised crime who have links across the country. The honourable court should direct the law enforcement agencies to launch investigation against these perpetrators
When the Supreme Court said that the victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation should be provided “ a life of dignity” it should not be meant that the court is talking about legalization. Organizations and individuals with vested interest who have to gain from such illegal trade start speaking about the legalization issue.
It is a reality that Govt of India has never had a serious view on the issue of rehabilitation. It may be thing of past as the Government of India with the liberalization of the economy has now no dearth of the funds to do it. The Government is already spending huge amounts in National Rural Health Mission, Sarva Shiksha Abhjiyan , National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme, Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) & etc.
Recently the Government of India has launched Anti Human Trafficking Units across the country. This is a specialised force which will work exclusively to combat Human Trafficking. The results are already being felt with more such gangs being busted. This is the right time we thought seriously about rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking. We don’t need to think about ifs and buts- it is time for action.
The writer is practising advocate in the Supreme Court of India and is President of Shakti Vahini a leading non governmental organization working on anti trafficking. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Amendment to Article 243 D of the Constitution of India for enhancing reservation for women in Panchayats
The Cabinet today approved the proposal for moving an official Amendment to the Constitution (One hundred and Tenth Amendment) Bill, 2009 for enhancing reservation for women in Panchayats at all tiers from 1/3rd to at least 50%. The Constitution (One hundred and Tenth Amendment) Bill, 2009 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 26.11.2009. The official Amendment proposes to add word ‘rural’ before the word ‘population’ as and where the same occur in 1st Proviso of Clause (2) (iii) of the Constitution (One hundred and Tenth Amendment) Bill, 2009. This Provision will apply to the total number of seats filled by direct election, offices of Chairpersons and seats and offices of Chairpersons reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Enhancement of reservation for women in Panchayats will facilitate more women to enter the public sphere and this will lead to further empowerment of women and also make Panchayats more inclusive institutions, thereby improving governance and public service delivery. The addition of word ‘rural’ before word ‘population1 occurring in the 1st Proviso of Clause (2)(iii) of the Rill will reflect appropriate demographic representation of categories of population for whom reservation is made.
At present, out of the total elected representatives of Panchayats numbering approximately 28.18 lakh, 36.87% are women. With the proposed Constitutional Amendment, the number of elected women representatives is expected to rise to more than 14 lakh. Having more elected women representatives would benefit the entire population of the States and UTs where Panchayati Raj is in existence.
Ministry of Panchayati Raj had moved a Bill for amendment to Article 243D of the Constitution on 26.11.2009 after approval of the Cabinet for enhancing reservation for women in (i) the total number of seats to be filled by direct election, (ii) offices of chairpersons and (iii) in seats and offices of chairpersons reserved for SCs and STs, to 50% in all tiers of Panchayats. The proposed official amendment, as indicated above, in the original Amendment Bill will be moved in the Lok Sabha at the earliest.
All States / UTs are parts thereof to which Part IX of the Constitution applies would be covered (Part IX does not apply to Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram, tribal areas of Assam and Tripura and hill areas of Manipur).
The Constitutional Amendment Bill for enhancing reservation for women in Panchayats at all tiers from one third to one half was introduced in Lok Sabha on 26.11.2009 with the approval of Cabinet in its meeting on 27.08.2009. The Bill was referred to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development by Hon’ble Speaker on 21.12.2009. The Committee has recommended that word ‘rural’ be added before word ‘population’ occurring in Clause 2 (iii) of the original Amendment Bill in order to maintain better demographic representation to SCs and STs class. In view of this, it has been decided to make official amendment accordingly in the Bill already under consideration of Lok Sabha.
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