Five years after Nirbhaya: A lot needs to be done

There have been many changes and amendments in the law after the Nirbhaya case, but a lot needs to be done, says Anju Dubey, programme officer of UN Women India

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Praggya Guptaa | December 15, 2017 | Delhi


#crime   #rape   #December 16 gangrape   #Nirbhaya   #women   #sexual violence  

Have things changed five years after the Nirbhaya incident?
I see Delhi as the capital of protest, not just capital of rape as it is often painted. In terms of legislation, in 2013 one-stop-centres were set up after the landmark report of Justice Verma Committee and Justice Usha Mehra Commission. There was amendment in the Criminal Law Act in 2013. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was enacted. If I look back there have been a few steps forward, but there is a lot that needs to be done. Changes in laws were done in 2013 but their implementation is a big challenge. The area of problem where we really need to put our heart and mind, and also money, is access to justice. Other areas that have not seen any development are in behaviours, attitudes and social norms. How much we have sustained after the initial outpour after the Nirbhaya remains a significant challenge. 

 
Madhya Pradesh has announced capital punishment for rapists of girls 12 and below. Will this improve the situation?
This is worrying from the UN perspective as we have a very strong position against capital punishment. In this context, it [the bill] will put the victim’s or the survivor’s life at risk, as in many cases the rapist kills the victim after the rape to wipe out any evidence. 
 
What are the challenges in government programmes for women safety?
A programme like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is only focused on declining child sex ratio. We are still waiting to see what has transpired in the programme. In real terms, we need to see the changes in point percentages in child sex ratio on the ground in districts where it [the programme] has been implemented. In this area we do not know what is happening. This brings me to an important point: we need to strengthen our data systems. I am being cautious and respectful to the observation of the supreme court, but I think diluting sections of  498A are worrying. Under section 498A, mandatory counselling is recommended. But a choice should be given to women. If I want to file a case as the citizen of this country it is my right to do so. 

There is a rise in crime against women according to the NCRB data. What do you think is required to address this?
We need to have evidence and data generation. A lot more women are now coming to report their cases. Especially after the Nirbhaya case, there is a sharp spike in reported cases. Some women groups now see this increased reporting as a positive sign. Earlier, they used to see it as just a rise in crime graph. In the context of data and data systems, for example, the NCRB should look at formulating data on the basis of age, caste and class. Because we know that women coming from specific communities like Dalit, minority, single women and the disabled are much more vulnerable to experiencing violence, particularly sexual violence. Therefore, we really need to categorise the crimes reported. Interestingly, the UN Women and the UNFPA are working with the Registrar General of India to engender data systems in the country, because many policies are formulated on the basis of the data presented to the government. So we really think there is an urgent need to invest in data systems, but that also means we need to have a budget for ending violence against women and girls. 
 
For example, if we see the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), there has been no allocation of funds from the centre for the implementation of the PWDVA since 2014. Now all state governments are supposed to allocate funds for the implementation of PWDVA. This means, organisations like us, and civil society organisations, do not know what is going on at different state levels. Of course, data has come from various organisations. But the whole point is whether the states are investing in the implementation of PWDVA. So the monitoring part of the laws and some schemes announced is severely lacking. 
 

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