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[RSTV Archive] Sexual Crime – Fast-tracking Justice

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Context

The Union Cabinet earlier this month has approved the continuation of over 1000 Fast Track Special Courts to ensure faster delivery of justice to victims of sexual offenses, as a centrally sponsored scheme for another two years.

What is the announcement?

  • The decision offers continuation of 389 exclusive POCSO courts to expedite trials and provide immediate relief to minor girls who are victims of sexual crimes.
  • The continuation of the scheme involves a total outlay of more than Rs 1,572 crore. Rs 971 crore is provided by the Centre from the Nirbhaya Fund, the remaining amount is expected to be provided by states.
  • This decision is being hailed as a major step towards de-clogging the justice system.

Fast Track Special Courts: A backgrounder

  • Incidents of rape of minor girls below the age of twelve years and women below the age of sixteen years have shaken the conscience of the entire nation.
  • To bring more stringent provisions and expeditious trial and disposal of such cases, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 was enacted which made provision of stringent punishment, including death penalty, for perpetrators of rape, it said.
  • This led to the establishment of the fast-track special courts.

Sexual Crime in India

  • Sexual Abuse/ Molestation/ Rape: Rape is one of the most common crimes in India.According to the National Crime Records Bureau, one woman is raped every 20 minutes in India.
  • Marital Crimes: In India, marital rape is not a criminal offense.  India is one of fifty countries that have not yet outlawed marital rape.
  • Forced Marriage: Girls are vulnerable to being forced into marriage at young ages, suffering from a double vulnerability: both for being a child and for being female.  
  • Trafficking and forced prostitution: Human trafficking, especially of girls and women, often leads to forced prostitution and sexual slavery.
  • Online abuse: Women are regularly subject to online rape threats, online harassment, cyber-stalking, blackmail, trolling, slut-shaming and more.
  • Harassment at the workplace: Sexual harassment at workplace, mostly comprising of indecent remarks, unwanted touches, demands for sex, and the dissemination of pornography.

Why do we need to tackle such crimes in a speedy manner?

  • When we talk about violence, it is easy to focus on the physical effects.
  • The injuries on the body can be life-changing and can even result in death. It is important however to consider the impact of this incident can have on victim’s mental health.
  • Depression, anxiety and low self-esteem are typical repercussions of a violent experience. These psychological effects can be incredibly destructive.
  • Many victims report feeling suicidal tendency. The psychological effect may completely change the personality of the victim.
  • Hence it is important to extend the psychological support to the victim. Speedy Justice serves this purpose.

Various laws for the protection of women

Various special laws relating to women include:

  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
  • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  • Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
  • Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

The Government has also taken a number of initiatives for the safety of women and girls, which are given below:

  • Nirbhaya Fund for projects for the safety and security of women
  • One-Stop Centre Scheme to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces under one roof
  • Online analytic tool for police called “Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences” to monitor and track time-bound investigation in sexual assault cases in accordance with Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2018.
  • National Database on Sexual Offenders (NDSO) to facilitate investigation and tracking of sexual offenders across the country by law enforcement agencies.

Need for fast-track courts

  • Clearance rate: They have a better clearance rate as compared to the regular courts and hold speedy trials.
  • Speedy Trial: Besides providing quick justice to the hapless victims, it strengthens the deterrence framework for sexual offenders.
  • Deterrence framework: Besides providing quick justice to the victims, it strengthens the deterrence framework for sexual offenders.

Expected outcomes from these courts

  • Women safety: Further the commitment of the nation to champion the cause of safety and security of women and girl child.
  • Reduction of pendency of cases: Fastracking of these cases will declog the judicial system of the burden of case pendency
  • Special consideration: Reduce the number of pending cases of Rape & POCSO Act.
  • Speedy access to justice: Provide speedy access to justice to the victims of sexual crimes and act as a deterrent for sexual offenders.

What else can be done?

  • Increasing number of fast track courts is an urgent need.
  • Special investigation units comprising predominantly women police officers should be created.
  • In these special courts, women judges should be there so that the victim feels comfortable in narrating the details of the sexual assault perpetrated on her.
  • Gender sensitization programs will help the officers to have the required considerate approach for rape victims.
  • Another very important aspect is to provide counseling for the family members of the victim. So that the family can positively help the victim to come out of trauma.
  • There should be a state sponsored victim compensation fund particularly for heinous offences including rape.

Conclusion

  • Breaking the cycle of abuse will require concerted collaboration and action between governmental and non-governmental actors including educators, health-care authorities, legislators, the judiciary and the mass media.
  • Education of both men and women will lead to change in attitudes and perceptions.
  • It is not easy to eradicate deep seated cultural value or alter traditions that perpetuates discrimination.
  • It is mammoth task. We are just doing bits and pieces. A way ahead is obscure but in our sphere with concrete and pronounced steps.

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