Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Corrective voice from Supreme Court against stereotyping of women

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Gender sensitization of Judiciary

A judgment by the Supreme Court forbidding judges from making gender-stereotypical comments came as a corrective voice from within the highest judiciary.

Q.Discuss the need for gender sensitization of the judicial institutions.

What is the news?

  • The judgment came days after the CJI, during a virtual hearing reportedly asked an alleged rapist’s lawyer to enquire whether his client would marry the survivor.
  • His statement coincided with International Women’s Day.
  • Days later, a Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and S. Ravindra Bhat urged courts to avoid using reasoning/language which diminished a sexual offence and tended to trivialize the survivor.

What did the Court say?

  • The greatest extent of sensitivity is to be displayed in the judicial approach, language and reasoning adopted by the judge.
  • Even a solitary instance of such order or utterance in court, reflects adversely on the entire judicial system of the country, undermining the guarantee to fair justice to all, and especially to victims of sexual violence.
  • This judgment is one among a series of interventions with which the apex court has clamped down on abuse and sex stereotyping of women.

No institution is mightier than the modesty of a woman.

SC against stereotyping

Some of the notable judgments which have lashed out at sex stereotyping include:

  1. The framing of the Vishaka Guidelines on sexual harassment of women in working places, and
  2. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud’s historic judgment giving women Armed Forces officers’ equal access to Permanent Commission while debunking the establishment’s claim that women were physiologically weaker than men
  3. In the Anuj Garg case, the Supreme Court had rebuked “the notion of romantic paternalism”, which, “in practical effect, put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage”

Avoid gender stereotypes such as:

The courts should desist from expressing any stereotype opinion, in words spoken during proceedings, or in the course of a judicial order, to the effect that

  • women are physically weak and need protection;
  • men are the “head” of the household and should take all the decisions relating to family;
  • women should be submissive and obedient according to our culture;
  • “good” women are sexually chaste;
  • motherhood is the duty and role of every woman and assumptions to the effect that she wants to be a mother;
  • being alone at night or wearing certain clothes make women responsible for being attacked;
  • lack of evidence of physical harm in sexual offence case leads to an inference of consent by the woman.

Conclusion

  • Stereotyping compromises the impartiality and integrity of the justice system, which can, in turn, lead to miscarriages of justice, including the re-victimization of complainants.
  • Often judges adopt rigid standards about what they consider to be appropriate behaviour for women and penalize those who do not conform to these stereotypes.

There should be gender sensitization

  • The court-mandated that a module on gender sensitization is included, as part of the foundational training of every judge.
  • This module must aim at imparting techniques for judges to be more sensitive in hearing and deciding cases of sexual assault, and eliminating entrenched social bias, especially misogyny.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Ramani Judgement

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Sexual harassment at workplace

 

Why the Ramani judgement matters

  • The verdict went beyond a mere refusal to convict Ramani for criminal defamation.
  • The verdict vindicated Ramani by accepting Ramani’s truth as a defence to the charge of defamation.
  • The verdict urged society to “understand that sometimes a victim may for years not speak up due to mental trauma,” and underlined that a woman has a right to speak up about the abuse, even after decades.
  • It pointed out that since sexual harassment typically takes place in private, women’s testimonies cannot be dismissed as untrue or defamatory simply because they are unable to provide other witnesses to back their allegations.
  • Institutional mechanisms have systemically failed to protect women or provide justice, the verdict reasoned.
  • Therefore, survivors are justified in sharing their testimonies on media or social media platforms as a form of self-defence.

Right to dignity

  • The Ramani verdict points out that sexual abuse violates the constitutionally recognised rights to dignity (Article 21) and equality (Articles 14 and 15), and that (a man’s) right to reputation cannot be protected at the cost of (a woman’s) right to dignity. 
  • The Ramani verdict is a huge moral vindication of the #MeToo movement and will serve to deter powerful men from using the defamation law to silence survivors.

Problem of institution

  • Sexual harassment is a problem of institutions rather than of individuals alone.
  • The world over, employers deploy sexual harassment as a means to discipline and control women workers.
  • In India and Bangladesh, at least 60 per cent of garment factory workers experience harassment at work.
  • In Guangzhou, China, a survey found that 70 per cent of female factory workers had been sexually harassed at work, and 15 per cent quit their jobs as a result.
  • For factory workers, domestic workers, street vendors, sanitation and waste workers, construction workers, sex workers, labour laws or laws against sexual harassment exist only on paper.

Conclusion

The women who spoke were unanimous that individual complaints were not an option, they needed unions to fight collectively. Women workers fighting sexual harassment, need more support and attention.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

#MeToo and Defamation Cases

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Criminal Defamation

Mains level : Women safety issues

The Delhi High Court has dismissed former Union Ministers’ criminal defamation complaint against a famous journalist over her tweets accusing him of sexual harassment.

What is the #MeToo Movement?

  • The #MeToo movement, with variations of related local or international names, is a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment towards women, where people publicize allegations of sex crimes.
  • The phrase “Me Too” was initially used in this context on social media in 2006, on Myspace, by sexual harassment survivor and activist Tarana Burke in the US.
  • It is aimed at demonstrating how many women have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

You must know this!

The Vishaka Guidelines were a set of procedural guidelines for use in India in cases of sexual harassment. They were promulgated by the Indian Supreme Court in 1997 and were superseded in 2013 by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

What did the court say?

  • Women have the right to put their grievances at any platform of their choice and even after decades.
  • The court also rejected the argument that the former union minister was a man of a stellar reputation.

What is the case?

  • The former minister had filed a criminal defamation case against the person in October 2018 since she did not produce any proof.
  • The criminal case was initiated to create a chilling effect against women who spoke out about their experience of sexual harassments.

Legal backing of the acquittal

  • Criminal defamation is defined in Section 499 of the IPC as making or publishing any imputation about a person intending to harm, or knowing it will harm the reputation of a person.
  • Any statement or article criticizing a person or accusing them of any sort of problematic behaviour will obviously lower their reputation.
  • Hence this is always emphasised in legal notices and complaints to courts alleging defamation.
  • However, the law recognizes that a person’s reputation can’t be a shield against their own bad behaviour and that there can be various circumstances when outing this bad behaviour is in the public interest.
  • This is why Section 499 of the IPC also prescribes several exceptions to claims of defamation.

Is it a win for the survivors?

  • It should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that a corresponding criminal case for sexual harassment against the man would be successful.
  • This is because the allegations of harassment would have to be proved against the man beyond all reasonable doubt.
  • Therefore even though the present defence of truth was accepted by Delhi HC, this would not guarantee that the former minister would be convicted, as the standard of proof is different.

Conclusion

  • This judgement will set an example for the reluctant or other ousted women who are willing to revisit the cases of sexual misconduct against them.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Issues with Harsher Punitive measures for the sexual violence

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with punitive response to sexual violence

Harsher punishment for sexual violence

  • Recently, the Maharashtra cabinet approved the Shakti Bill, enlarging the scope of harsher and mandatory sentences — including the death penalty — for non-homicidal rape.
  • The Shakti Bill comes amid the recent legislative trend to invoke the death penalty for sexual offences.
  • In 2020, the Andhra Pradesh government passed the Disha Bill, pending presidential assent, that provides the death penalty for the rape of adult women.

Issues with the Bills

1) Focus on reporting of police complaint

  • The most severe gaps in the justice delivery system are related to reporting a police complaint.
  • The focus of the criminal justice system needs to shift from sentencing and punishment to the stages of reporting, investigation and victim-support mechanisms.
  • The bill does not address these concerns.

2) Impact on rate of conviction

  • Harsh penalties often have the consequence of reducing the rate of conviction for the offence.
  • A study published in the Indian Law Review based on rape judgments in Delhi shows a lower rate of conviction after the removal of judicial discretion in 2013.
  • Introducing harsher penalties does not remove systemic prejudices from the minds of judges and the police.

3) Harsher punishment would deter complainants

  • Studies on child sexual abuse have shown that in the few cases of convictions, the minimum sentence was the norm and the award of the maximum punishment was an exception.
  • Crime data from the National Crime Records Bureau shows that in 93.6 per cent of these cases, the perpetrators were known to the victims.
  • Introducing capital punishment would deter complainants from registering complaints.
  • The Shakti Bill ignores crucial empirical evidence on these cases.

4) Moving away from standard of affirmative consent

  • An affirmative standard of consent is rooted in unequivocal voluntary agreement by women through words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication.
  • In a sharp departure, the bill stipulates that valid consent can be presumed from the “conduct of the parties” and the “circumstances surrounding it”.
  • The vaguely worded explanation in the bill holds dangerous possibilities of expecting survivors to respond only in a certain manner, thus creating the stereotype of an “ideal” victim.
  • It also overlooks the fact that perpetrators are known to the survivors in nearly 94 per cent of rapes, which often do not involve any brutal violence.

Conclusion

Punitive responses to sexual violence need serious rethinking, given the multitude of perverse consequences and their negligible role in addressing the actual needs of rape survivors.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Give adequate time for investigation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CrPC provisions

Mains level : Paper 2- Reduction in the time for investigation and issues with it

Andhra Pradesh’s Disha Bill of 2019 seeks to reduce the time period for investigation of some crimes to seven days. Such a move could have several consequences. The article deals with that issue.

State governments reducing the period of investigation

  • The proposed Maharashtra Shakti Act of 2020 will have a provision to complete the investigation within 15 days.
  • Maharashtra has taken cur from the Andhra Pradesh’s Disha Bill of 2019.
  • Disha mandated completion of investigation within seven working days for offenses such as harassment of women, sexual assault on children, and rape, where “adequate conclusive evidence” is available.
  • The interpretation of “adequate conclusive evidence” by the police shall remain a problem.

What are the CrPC provisions?

  • The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) provides that investigations relating to offenses punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years must be completed within 60 days.
  • For offenses with higher punishment (including rape) the time limit is of 90 days of detaining the accused, else he or she shall be released on bail.
  • To speed up the process, the CrPC was amended in 2018 and the period of investigation was reduced from 90 to 60 days for all cases of rape.

Factors that decide the time required

  • Generally, the time of investigation depends on several factors like the severity of the crime, the number of accused persons and agencies involved.
  • This is besides the fact that in many cases of rape, the victim remains under trauma for some time and is not able to narrate the incident in detail.
  • The speed and quality of investigation also depend on whether a police station has separate units of investigation and law and order.[ a long-pending police reform]
  • It also depends on the number of available IOs and women police officers, and the size and growth of the FSL and its DNA unit.

Consider the question “Examine the reasons for the high crime rate in India? Recently, some state governments have reduced the duration for the investigation of crime. How such move could impact the investigation?” 

Conclusion

Setting narrow timelines for investigation creates scope for procedural loopholes that may be exploited during the trial. Therefore, instead of fixing unrealistic timelines, the police should be given additional resources so that they can deliver efficiently.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

What is Shakti Act?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shakti, Disha Act

Mains level : Women safety

In a bid to curb crimes against woman and children in Maharashtra, the state cabinet unveiled the ‘Shakti Act.’ The Act is modelled on the lines of Andhra Pradesh’s Disha Act, which was brought last year after a veterinarian was raped and murdered in Hyderabad.

Why have stringent laws have consistently failed to instill any fear in rapists?

Shakti Act: Key Provisions

  • It proposes stringent punishment including the death penalty and heavy fines for the culprits.
  • Special police teams and separate courts will be set up for investigation and trial of cases against women and children.
  • The perpetrators if found guilty will be punished with imprisonment for life for not less than ten years but may extend to the remainder of natural life or with death in cases which have characteristics of being heinous in nature.
  • A sum of Rs 10 lakh will be given to an acid attack victim for plastic surgery and facial reconstruction and the amount will be collected as fine from the convict.
  • The investigation shall be completed within a period of 15 working days from the date of registration of an offence. This can be extended by 7 days.
  • After a charge sheet is filed trial shall be conducted on a day-to-day basis and completed within a period of 30 working days.
  • Some cases will be tried in-camera for the recording of evidence of victims and witnesses who are vulnerable.

Enforcement, not the law

  • Despite several laws, incidences of rapes continue unabated.
  • In fact, now we hear cases of extreme brutality.
  • The general perception is that since the laws have been made more stringent, so the rapists resort to extreme measures in a bid to destroy the evidence.
  • One thing is very clear, Laws alone cannot provide a solution to this problem.

What should be done?

  • Law provides for speedy investigations and fast track of trials in rape cases.
  • What we need is better policing, making public spaces safer for women, ensuring round the clock surveillance of isolated areas and deployment of police at all strategic points.
  • Prevention and not punishment is the solution and that requires concerted efforts on part of all the stakeholders.
  • It is not harsher punishments that will deter. It is the fear of being caught and not being spared.
  • The message should go out loud and clear that no one is above the dignity and safety of women in our country.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Right to Marriage is a Fundamental Right

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 21

Mains level : Interfaith marriage and associated issues in India

An individual’s right to marry a person of his or her choice is a fundamental right that cannot be denied on the basis of caste or religion by anybody, re-iterated the Karnataka High Court.

Discuss the various ethical and rights issues involved in interfaith marriages.

Right to Marriage

  • The right to marry is a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • The right to marriage is also stated under Human Rights Charter within the meaning of the right to start a family.
  • The right to marry is a universal right and it is available to everyone irrespective of their gender.
  • Various courts across the country have also interpreted the right to marry as an integral part of the right to life under Article 21.
  • A forced marriage is illegal in different personal laws on marriage in India, with the right to marry recognized under the Hindu laws as well as Muslim laws.

Other laws that lay down a person’s right to marry in India are:

  1. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
  2. The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890
  3. The Majority Act, 1875
  4. The Family Courts Act, 1984
  5. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

Back2Basics: Scope of Article 21

  • Article 21, considered the heart and soul of the Constitution, states, ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.

It has a much more profound meaning that signifies the:

  • Right to live with human dignity
  • Right to livelihood
  • Right to health
  • Right to pollution-free air
  • Right to live a quality life
  • Right to go abroad
  • Right to privacy
  • Right against delayed execution,

And anything and everything that fulfils the criteria for a dignified life.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

UP Law against Forceful Inter-Faith Marriage and Conversions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 21 and 25

Mains level : Freedom of Religion

The UP Cabinet has cleared a draft ordinance against forceful inter-faith conversions for marriage, amid similar steps by other states.

Try this question:

Q. In a world where religiosity is rising, the contemporary liberal ideas seem outdated and incapable of handling dangerous issues of religious bigotry. Critically comment.

What is the proposed UP law on ‘love jihad’?

  • The proposed law defines punishment and fine for three different cases.
  1. Conversion done though “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means” would face jail term of one to 5 years, and a minimum fine of Rs 15,000.
  2. Conversion of a minor, a woman from the SC or ST would have to face a jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000.
  3. If such conversion is found at the mass level, then those guilty would face jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 50,000.
  • It proposes among other things that a marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void) if the “sole intention” of the same is to “change a girl’s religion”.

Who can convert and how can they do it under the proposed law?

  • Under the new proposed law, anyone wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance.
  • The government is supposed to prepare a format for the application and the individual has to fill the application for conversion in that format.
  • However, under the new law, it would be the responsibility of the one going for the religious conversion to prove that it is not taking place forcefully or with any fraudulent means.
  • In case, any violation is found under this provision, then one faces a jail term from 6 months to 3 years and fine of minimum Rs 10,000.

Need for such law

  • The state of UP is witnessing rising incidents of forced religious conversions or conversions through fraudulent ways.
  • The extreme right wing politicians in the state were quiet vocal against alleged religious conversions.
  • There are cases of being allegedly lured and honey-trapped by men and those girls now seeking their help to free themselves.

Interfaith marriages and the Constitution

  • The right to marry a person of one’s choice is a guarantee under Article 21.
  • At the same time, freedom of conscience, the practice and propagation of a religion of one’s choice, including not following any religion, are guaranteed under Article 25.
  • One set of rights cannot invalidate the other.

What do critics say?

  • Such law to regulate matrimonial relationships between two consenting adults is simply against the constitutional guarantees.
  • The right to marry a person of one’s choice flows from the freedom of individuality, naturally available to any individual.
  • Hence, interfaith marriages and religious conversions should not be the matter of concern for social watchdogs.
  • Hence, the mere statement of two consenting adults about the existence of their matrimonial relation is sufficient.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Interfaith marriages and religious conversions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Special Marriages Act

Mains level : Interfaith marriage and associated issues in India

Forced religious conversions for interfaith marriages cases are widely seen in news these days. And many states are attempting to ban religious conversion for the sole purpose of marriage.

Try answering this:

Q. The recent withdrawal of a TV commercial advertisement showing an interfaith marriage has led to an astonishing blowback. In light of this, discuss the various ethical and rights issues involved in interfaith marriages.

Context

  • Though the Special Marriage Act, 1954 (SMA) was enacted to facilitate the marriage of couples professing different faiths, and preferring a civil wedding.
  • However, some practical problems arise in registering such marriages.
  • The law’s features on prior public notice being given and objections for the safety and privacy of those intending to marry across religions.
  • To overcome this, many settle for marriage under the personal law of one of them, with the other opting for religious conversion (accusingly termed as Love-Jihad).

What are the features of the SMA?

  • Age: The marriage of any two persons may be solemnized under the SMA, subject to the man having completed 21 years of age and the woman 18.
  • Consent: Neither should have a spouse living; both should be capable of giving valid consent, should not suffer from any mental disorder of a kind that renders them unfit for marriage and procreation.
  • Liability: They should not be within the degrees of prohibited relationship — that is, they should not be related in such a way that their religion does not permit such marriages.
  • Registration: Parties to an intended marriage should give notice to the ‘marriage officer’ of the district in which one of them had resided for at least 30 days.
  • Objections: Any person can object to the marriage within 30 days of the publication of the notice on the ground that it contravenes one of the conditions for a valid marriage.
  • Publication: The notice will have to be entered in a ‘Marriage Notice Book’ and a copy of it displayed at a conspicuous place in the office. The Notice Book is open for inspection at all reasonable times without a fee.
  • Inquiry and approval: The marriage officer has to inquire into the objection and give a decision within 30 days. If he refuses permission for the marriage, an appeal can be made to the district court. The court’s decision will be final.
  • Severance from family: Also, the Act says that when a member of a Hindu undivided family, gets married under SMA, it results in his or her “severance” from the family.

Threats after such marriages

  • The provisions relating to notice, publication and objection have rendered it difficult for many people intending to solemnize inter-faith marriages.
  • Publicity in the local registration office may mean that family members objecting to the union may seek to stop it by coercion.
  • In many cases, there may be a threat to the lives of the applicants.
  • There have been reports of right-wing groups opposed to inter-faith marriages for communal propaganda.

Issues with the publication of notices

  • In July, the Kerala Registration department decided to discontinue the practice of uploading marriage notices on its websites following complaints that these were being misused.
  • However, the notices will be displayed on the notice boards of the offices concerned.
  • These provisions have been challenged in the Supreme Court recently on the grounds that they violate the privacy of the couples, their dignity and right to marry.
  • In the case of Hindu and Muslim marriage laws, there is no requirement of prior notice and, therefore, such a requirement in the SMA violates the right to equality of those opting for marriage under it.

States against conversion for the sake of marriage

  • Even though Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and Karnataka have spoken about a separate enactment, at least two States have legal provisions to the effect.
  • The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019, and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, both prohibit conversion by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, inducement, allurement and ‘by marriage’.
  • There is a separate section in both laws under which, not conversion for the purpose of marriage, but marriage has done solely for the purpose of conversion, may be declared null and void by a family court based on a suit by either party.
  • The U.P. State Law Commission has recommended a similar Freedom of Religion law in the State and favours a provision under which marriages solemnized solely for the conversion of one of the parties may be nullified by a family court.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Himachal Pradesh’s law against religious conversion

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Freedom of Religion

Haryana government is considering a law against forced religious conversions and has sought information about such a law already in force in Himachal Pradesh.

Try this question

Q. How forced or misguided religious conversions pose a grave threat to the secular fabric of the Indian Society? Discuss.

The Himachal anti-conversion law

  • The state had already enacted a law in 2007 which prohibited conversion from one religion to another by force or fraud. Last year it introduced a more stringent version of the legislation.
  • There was a rise in conversions by fraudulent means and unless checked well in time.
  • Such practice may erode the confidence and mutual trust between the different ethnic and religious groups in the state.

What does the law say?

  • According to the Act, “no person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person from one religion to another by use of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage; nor shall any person abet or conspire such conversion”.
  • The Act does not cover a person re-converting to his “parent religion”.
  • It further says that any marriage done for the sole purpose of religion conversion may be declared null and void by a court on a petition by either party.

What happens if anyone wants to convert to any other religion?

  • As per the Act, anyone who wishes to convert to any other religion will give a declaration to the district authorities at least one month in advance, specifying that one is doing so as per his/her “own volition or free consent”.
  • In fact, even the religious priest who performs the conversion ceremony has to inform the authorities at least one month in advance.
  • The district magistrate will then conduct an inquiry regarding the “intention, purpose and cause of proposed conversion”.
  • The conversion will be rendered illegal if the authorities are not informed in advance.

The burden of proof

  • The Act says that the burden of proof as to whether a religious conversion was not effected through force or fraud lies on the person so converted, or the person who has facilitated the conversion.

Penal provisions

  • All offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable. The violator can be punished with a prison term ranging from one to five years, along with a fine.
  • In case the victim is a minor, woman or member of a Scheduled Caste or Tribe, the imprisonment may extend upto seven years.
  • Failure to declare the conversion in advance can also result in imprisonment of upto two years.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[pib] Meri Saheli Initiative

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Meri Saheli Initiative

Mains level : Women safety

Indian Railways has launched “Meri Saheli” initiative for focused action on the security of women across all zones with an objective to provide safety and security to lady passengers.

Such a feedback-based initiative can be replicated in unsafe cities while addressing distress situation.

Meri Saheli Initiative

  • The initiative was started as a pilot project in South Eastern Railway in September 2020 and after getting encouraging response from lady passengers.
  • An initiative of RPF, the strategy entails interaction with lady passengers especially those travelling alone by a team of lady RPF personnel at the originating station.
  • These lady passengers are briefed about all precautions to be taken during the journey and told to dial 182 in case they face or see any problem in the coach.
  • The RPF team collects only the seat numbers of the ladies and conveys them to stoppages en-route.
  • RPF/RPSF escort onboard also covers all the coaches/identified berths during its duty period.

Based on feedbacks

  • RPF teams at the destination collect the feedback from the identified lady passengers.
  • The feedback is then analysed and corrective action, if any, is taken.
  • If some distress call comes from a train covered under “Meri Saheli” initiative, the disposal of the call is monitored at the level of senior officers.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed of the day] The many problems of delayed data

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Delays in NCRB data release, Increasing crime reporting, role played by the media.

Context

Delay in releasing the crime data by NCRB reduces the utility of the data for the policymakers.

Formidable challenges faced by NCRB

  • The First-Casual approach of the States: The first is the lackadaisical approach of some of the States in providing data.
    • The NCRB merely assembles the figures it receives from the State police forces and does not tinker with them to reach a predetermined conclusion.
    • States’ irregularity: Data collection hits a roadblock when a few States either don’t bother to send the figures or send them much after the volume is published.
  • The second-Utility of the released data: The second problem is that questions are raised over the utility of the data.
    • There was a two-year delay in releasing the crime statistics for 2017.
    • Just two months after it was published, the ‘Crime in India’ (CII) 2018 report was released.
    • Reduced utility from a policy point of view: These numbers are only relevant to researchers, not policymakers as it does not carry us far in understanding what is happening on the ground.
    • A fossilised CII is meaningless.
  • The third- Third problem lies with the police and the public.
    • The Reluctance of the police to register the complaint: The police are notorious the world over for not registering complaints.
    • They do this so that they can present a false picture of a decline in crime.
    • The reluctance of the public: The public is also not very enthusiastic about reporting crimes to the police.
    • Catch-22 situation: Public is fearful of being harassed at the police station or do not believe that the police are capable of solving the crime. This is a Catch-22 situation.

Crimes difficult to bury

  • The positive role played by the media: However, the problem has declined slightly over the years due to public awareness and intense media scrutiny.
    • There are a few classes of offences which are becoming increasingly difficult to bury. This is attributable to the extraordinary interest evinced by the media in reporting crime.
  • The crimes which are difficult to bury: The following cases of crime are becoming difficult to bury.
    • Homicide: The first category of crimes that is difficult to bury is of homicides.
    • Matter of distress: India reports an average of 30,000 murders every year (29,017 were registered in 2018). Every murder is a matter of distress.
    • Nevertheless, the stabilisation of the figure at 30,000 is a mild assurance.
    • The corresponding figure for the period in the U.S. was around 16,200.
    • Need to study the US decline: Though the U.S. has about one-third of India’s population, the reported decline in murders in many major U.S cities is worth studying.
    • Crime against women: The common man in India does not lag behind others in reacting strongly to attacks on hapless women and men.
    • The growth of the visual media possibly explains this welcome feature in Indian society.
    • The hope of a decrease in crime: The nationwide outrage over the gang-rape in Delhi and the subsequent tightening of laws on sexual crimes generated the hope that attacks against women would decrease.

The issue of under-reporting

  • Under-reporting of crime in rural areas: In 2018, there were 33,356 rapes, a higher number than the previous year.
    • But these figures do not fully reflect realities on the ground.
    • There is still the unverifiable suspicion that while in urban areas sexual violence cases are reasonably well-reported, the story is different in rural India.
    • The role played by money and caste: Money power and caste oppression are believed to play a significant role in under-reporting.
    • What is more significant is that a substantial number of such crimes are committed by the ‘friends’ and families of victims.

Conclusion

  • To be fair to the NCRB, we must concede that the organisation has more than justified its existence. The CII is used extensively by researchers.
  • Need for educating the people on realities of crime and its reporting: There is scope for more dynamism on the NCRB’s part, especially in the area of educating the public on the realities of crime and its reporting.
  • Greater pressure on the States to stick to a schedule: The NCRB will also have to be conscious of the expectation that it should bring greater pressure on States to make them stick to schedules and look upon this responsibility as a sacred national duty.

 

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Private: NCRB: Annual Crime in India Report 2018

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : State of Crime in India

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) published the annual Crime in India Report 2018.

Crimes against women

  • According to the report, 3,78,277 cases of crime against women were reported in the country, up from 3,59,849 in 2017.
  • Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 59,445 cases, followed by Maharashtra (35,497) and West Bengal (30,394).
  • The conviction rate in rape-related cases stood at 27.2% even though the rate of filing chargesheets was 85.3% in such cases.
  • Cruelty by husband or his relatives (31.9%) followed by assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (27.6%) constituted the major share of crimes against women.

Suicides report

  • The NCRB also released the Accidental Death and Suicides in India 2018 report, which said that 10,349 people working in the farm sector ended their lives in 2018, accounting for 7.7 % of the total number of suicides in the country.
  • There were 5,763 farmers/cultivators and 4,586 agricultural labourers among those who ended their lives.
  • The total number of people who committed suicide in 2018 was 1,34,516, an increase of 3.6% from 2017 when 1,29,887 cases were reported.
  • The highest number of suicide victims were daily wagers — 26,589, comprising 22.4% of such deaths.
  • The majority of the suicides were reported in Maharashtra (17,972) followed by Tamil Nadu (13,896), West Bengal (13,255), Madhya Pradesh (11,775) and Karnataka (11,561)

More murder cases

  • The incidents registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes related Acts saw a decline from 6729 incidents reported in 2017 to 4816 in 2018.
  • A total of 29,017 cases of murder were registered in 2018, showing an increase of 1.3% over 2017 (28,653 cases).
  • A total of 76,851 cases of offences against public tranquillity were registered in 2018, out of which rioting, 57,828 cases, accounted for 75.2% of total such cases, the report said.
  • As many as 27,248 cases of cyber crimes were registered in 2018, up from 21796 cases in 2017.

Data on Rioting

  • In 2018, 76,851 cases were registered under the category “Offences against Public Tranquillity”.
  • This was a decline from 2017 which saw 78,051 such cases.
  • Almost 90% of all such offences were associated with rioting while the rest were under “Unlawful Assembly” (popularly known as Section 144).
  • Compare this with riots for other reasons such as communal, students agitation, political and agrarian. According to the NCRB, political riots fell by almost 25% in 2018 over 2017.
  • Communal riots fell by almost 30% in the same period.
  • Caste conflicts too declined by almost 20%. Student conflicts marginally fell by about 10%, while agrarian riots recorded a decline of over 35%.
  • Cases of rioting during “andolan/morcha” too have registered a decline of 25%.
  • While cases of communal riots are down, cases of attempts at inciting passions and stoking hatred have risen.
  • The data show offences promoting enmity different groups have been constantly rising and have in fact more than doubled over 2016.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Death penalty in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Capital Punishment and its justification


The horrific December 16, 2012, Delhi bus gangrape case is rapidly moving towards its final conclusion.

Death Penalty

  • Article 21 ensures the Fundamental Right to life and liberty for all persons.
  • It adds no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • This has been legally construed to mean if there is a procedure, which is fair and valid, then the state by framing a law can deprive a person of his life.
  • While the central government has consistently maintained it would keep the death penalty in the statute books to act as a deterrent, and for those who are a threat to society, the Supreme Court too has upheld the constitutional validity of capital punishment in “rarest of rare” cases.

Various judgments related to Death Penalty

  • The Supreme Court has always said that the death sentence should be given rarely.
  • In ‘Mithu vs State of Punjab’ (1983), the Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional.
  • It struck down Section 303 in the IPC, which entailed a mandatory death sentence for a person who commits murder while serving a life term in another case.
  • The Supreme Court ruled Section 303 violated Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life) since an unreasonable distinction was sought to be made between two classes of murders.
  • Similarly, the Supreme Court ruled in ‘State of Punjab vs Dalbir Singh’ in 2012 that mandatory death penalty as punishment for crimes under Section 27 (3) of the Arms Act, 1959, was unconstitutional.
  • In ‘Jagmohan Singh vs State of UP’ (1973), then in ‘Rajendra Prasad vs State of UP’ (1979), and finally in ‘Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab’ (1980) the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional validity of the death penalty.
  • It said that if capital punishment is provided in the law and the procedure is a fair, just and reasonable one, the death sentence can be awarded to a convict.
  • This will, however, only be in the “rarest of rare” cases, and the courts should render “special reasons” while sending a person to the gallows.

What is a “rarest of rare” case?

  • The principles of what would constitute the “rarest of rare” were laid down by the top court in the landmark judgment in ‘Bachan Singh’.
  • Two prime questions, the top court held, may be asked and answered.
  • First, is there something uncommon about the crime which renders the sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for a death sentence?
  • Second, are there circumstances of the crime such that there is no alternative but to impose the death sentence even after according maximum weightage to the mitigating circumstances which speak in favour of the offenders?
  • Courts have agreed that the Delhi gangrape case meets the test of rarest of rare.

Avenues available to a death-row convict

  • After a trial court awards the death penalty, the sentence must be confirmed by a High Court.
  • The sentence cannot be executed till the time the High Court confirms it, either after deciding the appeal filed by the convict, or until the period allowed for preferring an appeal has expired.
  • If the High Court confirms the death penalty and it is also upheld by the Supreme Court, a convict can file a review petition.
  • If the review petition is rejected, the convict can file a curative petition for reconsideration of the judgment.
  • In 2014, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that a review petition by a death-row convict will be heard by a three-judge Bench in open court. Such cases were earlier being heard by two-judge Benches in the judges’ chamber.
  • A curative petition is still heard in judges’ chambers.

Issues with delayed execution

  • The law provides for a long process before the execution of the convicts actually takes place.
  • The unexplained delay in execution can be a ground for commutation of death penalty, and an inmate, his or her kin, or even a public-spirited citizen could file a writ petition seeking such commutation.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Disha Act

Mains level : Need for stringent framework for crimes against women and children

The AP Legislative Assembly has passed the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019).

Disha Act

  • The bill provides for awarding death sentence for offences of rape and gangrape and expediting trials of such cases to within 21 days.
  • The Act envisages the completion of investigation in seven days and trial in 14 working days, where there is adequate conclusive evidence, and reducing the total judgment time to 21 days from the existing four months.
  • The AP Disha Act also prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children and includes Section 354 F and 354 G in IPC.
  • In cases of harassment of women through social or digital media, the Act states two years imprisonment for the first conviction and four years for second and subsequent convictions.
  • For this, a new Section 354 E will be added in IPC, 1860.

Highlights of the Disha Act

Introducing women and children offenders registry

  • The government of India has launched a National Registry of Sexual offenders but the database is not digitized and is not accessible to the public.
  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the Andhra Pradesh government will establish, operate and maintain a register in electronic form, to be called the ‘Women & Children Offenders Registry’.
  • This registry will be made public and will be available to law enforcement agencies.

Exclusive punishment of death penalty for rape crimes

  • At present, provision for punishing an offender in a rape case is a fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or the death sentence.
  • The Disha Act 2019 has prescribed the death penalty for rape crimes where there is adequate conclusive evidence.
  • Provision is given by amending Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Reducing the judgment period to 21 days

  • The existing judgment period as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act, 2018 is 4 months (two months of investigation period and two months of trial period)
  • As per the  Disha Act 2019, the judgment will now have to be pronounced in 21 working days from date of offence in cases of rape crimes with substantial conclusive evidence.
  • The investigation shall be completed in seven working days and trial shall be completed in 14 working days.
  • For this, amendments have been made to Section 173 and Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 and via the introduction of additional clauses in the act.
  • The same has been done in cases involving minors.

Stringent punishment for sexual offences against children

  • In cases of molestation/sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act, 2012, punishment ranges from a minimum of three years to maximum of seven years of imprisonment.
  • In the Disha Act 2019, apart from rape, the Government of Andhra Pradesh prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children.
  • New Sections 354F and Section 354G ‘Sexual Assault on Children’ is being inserted in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Punishment for harassment of women through social media

  • In the AP Disha Act, 2019, in cases of harassment of women through email, social media, digital mode or any other form, the guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment.
  • The imprisonment will be for a term which may extend to two years on first conviction and with imprisonment for a term which may extend to four years on second and subsequent conviction.
  • At present, no such provision exists in the Indian Penal Code. A new Section 354E ‘Harassment of Women’ is being added in Indian Penal Code, 1860

Establishment of exclusive special courts in every district of Andhra Pradesh

  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the government will establish exclusive special courts in each district to ensure speedy trial.
  • These courts will exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children including rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, social media harassment of women, sexual harassment and all cases under the POCSO Act.
  • The state government has introduced the ‘Andhra Pradesh Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women & Children Act, 2019′.

Reducing appeal to 3 months for disposal of rape cases 

  • At present, the period for disposal of appeal cases related to rape cases against women and children is six months.
  • In the Disha Act, 2019, the period for disposal of appeal cases has been reduced to three months.
  • Amendments are being made in Section 374 and 377 of Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973.

Constitution of special police teams and appointment of the special public prosecutor in special courts

  • There is no such provision in existing laws.
  • In the AP Disha Act, 2019, the government will constitute special police teams at the district level to be called District Special Police Team to be headed by DSP for investigation of offences related to women and children.
  • The government will also appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] Retributive justice: On Hyderabad vet rape and murder

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Women Safety - pursuing justice

Context

Justice in any civilized society is not just about retribution, but also about deterrence, and in less serious crimes, rehabilitation of the offenders. 

Disha incident

  • The heinous rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad shook the collective conscience of India.
  • It resulted in an outcry for justice for the victims and outrage over the persisting lack of safety for women in public spaces. 
  • Such societal pressure for justice weighs upon legal institutions, as the police are required to find the culprits with alacrity and the judiciary to complete the legal process without undue delay. 
  • But these institutions must uphold the rule of law and procedure even in such circumstances. 

The killing of the police

  • The police claim that two of the accused snatched their weapons and fired at them when the four had been taken to the crime scene to reconstruct the sequence of events. 
  • The National Human Rights Commission has deputed a fact-finding team to Hyderabad to probe the incident.
  • The guidelines set by the Supreme Court to deal with such events must be strictly observed to get to the bottom of this episode.

Public response

  • The jubilation on social media platforms and on the streets over the killings by the police stems from the public anger and anguish over the burgeoning crimes against women. 
  • There is a perception that the legal institutions are ill-equipped to deal with such crimes and to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

Way ahead

  • Much more needs to be done in terms of registration and charge-sheeting of sexual crimes by police and addressing the pendency in a court of such cases.
  • There has been greater awareness and improvement in both the policing and judicial process following the horrific bus gang-rape in 2012 in New Delhi. 
  • The Telangana government had issued orders for setting up a fast-track court to try the four accused and this should have brought closure to the case in a time-bound manner. 
  • Existing laws on sexual crimes and punishment need better application.
  • A recourse to brutal retribution as suggested unwisely by many is no solution. 
  • The political sanction of “encounter killings” to deliver swift retribution would only be a disincentive for the police to follow due process and may even deter them from pursuing the course of justice. 
  • Bending the law in such cases would only undermine people’s faith in the criminal justice system.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Dial 112: India’s new all-purpose emergency number

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ERSS, Justice Verma Committee

Mains level : Utility of ERSS


  • Delhi became the fifth UT after Puducherry, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to implement the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) since it was inaugurated.
  • In November 2018, Himachal Pradesh became the first state to roll out the ERSS, under which there is a single emergency response number across the country — 112.

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)

  • In India, the decision to launch the ERSS system was taken in the wake of the 2012 Delhi bus gangrape case.
  • The MHA accepted the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee in the backdrop of unfortunate incident of Nirbhaya in December 2012 and has approved a national project by name of ERSS.
  • ERSS was earlier referred as Nationwide Emergency Response System with a view to introduce a Pan-India Single Emergency Response Number ‘112’ to address all kinds of distress calls such as police, fire and ambulance, etc.

Why ‘112’?

  • A single emergency number under the ERSS makes it easier for people travelling across states/UTs, since they don’t have to remember the local emergency numbers of every place.
  • The emergency number 112 is easy to remember and moreover it is the only emergency you need to remember in India.
  • This is important because people confronted with an emergency can be stressed or even in panic.

How it will work

  • Existing emergency numbers such as 100 for police, 101 for fire, 108 for health services, the women’s helplines 1091 and 181, the child helpline 1098, etc., will be gradually integrated under 112.
  • A “112 India” app has been launched as well, through which users, after registering, can reach out to police, health, fire, and other services.
  • 112 is the common emergency number in several other countries as well, including most countries in Europe.

Back2Basics

Justice Verma Panel

  • The Justice Verma Committee was set up to recommend amendments to criminal law with the aim to provide for quicker trial and stronger punishment for sexual assault against women.
  • The panel was constituted on December 23, 2012, and included, apart from former CJI J S Verma, former High Court Justice Leila Seth, and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium.
  • It submitted its report on January 23, 2013.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] Popular anxiety

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Sex ratio as a major population issue

CONTEXT

Prime Minister called “population explosion” a challenge in his Independence Day speech. 

Facts

  1. India’s headcount is over 1.3 billion. It is headed even higher.
  2. The number might stabilize in a few years ahead. From data between 2013 to 2016, the country’s total fertility rate has fallen to an estimated 2.2. This figure is only marginally higher than 2.1, the replacement rate of the existing population.

Challenges

  1. Failure to arrest and reverse a trend in population: the gender gap. India has approximately 930 females per 1,000 males. 
  2. The ratio is even worse if we look at new births. The country’s sex ratio at birth declined from 900 females per 1,000 males in 2013-15 to 896 in 2015-17.
  3. Male preference among parents is not unique to India. Of the 201 countries listed on the United Nations Human Sex Ratio chart for 2018, India is at No. 191. There exist worse performers. 

Conclusion

We are heading for a gender crisis if a balance is not restored.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the kit

Mains level : Women safety measure

  • Over 3,100 special kits for collecting blood and semen samples, besides other evidence to carry out immediate investigations into sexual assault cases have been distributed among the States and UTs by the MHA.

Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits

  • The Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECK) or ‘rape investigation kits’ are designed to carry out immediate medico-legal investigation and aid in furnishing evidence in sexual assault and rape cases.
  • Each of these kits comprises essential items that will aid in furnishing evidence such as blood and semen samples in sexual assault and rape cases, thus helping the prosecution gather evidence against the accused.
  • The kit has a set of test tubes and bottles, which mention contents and specifications.
  • These kits also contain instructions on collection of evidence from the crime scene.
  • The SAECKs would be sent to the closest laboratory and within two months the results would be out.
  • Police and medical officers are being given training on how to use the kits in the event of any such case happening in their area of jurisdiction.
  • The kits are expected to help law enforcement agencies to ensure effective investigation in a timely manner for better prosecution and convictions in sexual assault cases.

Why such move?

  • The SAECKs or ‘rape investigation kits’ were procured with financial support under the central government’s ‘Nirbhaya Fund’, which was named after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim.
  • Incidents of crime against women rose from 3,29,243 in 2015 to 3,38,954 in 2016.
  • In 2015, as many as 34,651 cases of rape were registered in the country. The figure increased to 38,947 in 2016, according to the data of the National Crime Records Bureau.

With input from:

The Quint

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Kanyashree stipends are no shield against trafficking

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kanyashree and Syawangsiddha Schemes

Mains level: Various laws/schemes against trafficking and their effectiveness in curbing it


News

  • Despite being 56.09 lakh beneficiaries of the scheme in 2016-18 Human trafficking still persists in West Bengal at an unprecedented level.
  • As the per NCRB data, West Bengal reports the highest number of cases.
  • Data for 2016 shows that of the 8,132 cases in the country, 3,579 cases (around 44%) were from West Bengal.

Kanyashree Prakalpa

  • The Kanyashree Prakalpa (KP) introduced by the Govt. of West Bengal in 2013 is a conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme aimed at simultaneously reducing underage marriage and adolescent dropout among girls.
  • This scheme received widespread recognition at both national and international levels.
  • Most recently it awarded the first in the Asia-Pacific group for the category “reaching the poorest and most vulnerable through inclusive services and participation” by the United Nations in 2017.
  • This two-tier scheme consists of an annual grant of Rs750 for unmarried girls between the age of 13 and 18 years who are enrolled in some educational institution (KP1).
  • And a one-time grant of Rs 25,000 upon the attainment of 18 years, conditional upon her remaining both unmarried and continuing studies till that age (KP2).

Multiple schemes

  • Kanyashree is an overarching scheme apart from several other schemes aimed at combating trafficking.
  • In September 2018, West Bengal government rolled out Swayangsiddha scheme run by the West Bengal police to prevent trafficking.
  • Under the scheme (which means self reliance) complaint boxes have been installed in the schools where girls can submit any complaint of stalking or harassment faced by them or any of their friends.
  • Syawangsiddha is a scheme and is not as widespread as Kanyashree.

Lacunae in the Schemes

  • The situation had somewhat improved due to intervention of Kanyashree, still there were cases of girls from school going missing and being trafficked.
  • Trafficking is a complex problem and one scheme, which provides impetus to girls to remain in school, cannot put an end to trafficking.
  • Under the K1 scheme the benefit of Rs. 750 annually is hardly a deterrent to trafficking.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Study blames Indian inheritance law reforms for spike in female foeticide

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Impact of legislative reforms on sex-ratio in India


News

  • India’s discriminatory and anti-women inheritance laws appear to have failed to mitigate society’s long-held preference for sons, according to a new study.
  • The findings are supported by the Economic Survey 2017-18, which found an estimated 63 million women–roughly the population of the UK is ‘missing’ in India.

About the Study

  1. The study was conducted by researchers at King’s College University, New York University and the University of Essex, and published in the Journal of Development Economics.
  2. It used data from three rounds of the National Family Health Survey (1991-92, 1998-9 and 2005-6) and the Rural Economic and Demographic Survey (REDS) 2006.

Son-biased fertility stopping behaviour

  1. Instead of change of law between 1970 to 1990 has inadvertently led to increased female foeticide and higher female infant-mortality rates, finds the 2018 study.
  2. It analysed that families desires for a second child if the first child was a girl.
  3. The study finds that girls born after legal reforms were 2-3 % more likely to die before reaching their first birthday, and 9 % more likely to have a younger sibling if the firstborn child was a girl.
  4. The researchers studied families living in five “early-reformer” states-Kerala, AP, TN, Maharashtra and Karnataka- which amended the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
  5. These states allowed equal inheritance rights for women and men, at different dates between 1970 and 1990.

Hindu Succession Act, 1956

  1. Under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, only sons had a direct right to ancestral property, excluding daughters from inheritance claims where the father did not leave a will.
  2. From the 1970s onwards, changes in inheritance legislation sought to empower women by strengthening their financial and social position and reducing dependence on male relatives.
  3. The traditional preference for sons was also supposed to lessen, because daughters, backed by possession of the family home, would be able to offer parents security in old age.
  4. Equally, this was expected to eradicate the dowry system, a key contributing factor to the perception of a daughter as a financial burden.

Son-preference entrenched, women remain dispossessed

  1. Instead, the reforms appear to have had “unintended” effects leading to the “elimination of girls”, as social norms that organise family structures and alliances have not kept pace with changes to the law, the study finds.
  2. Awarding inheritance rights to women makes parents more averse to having a daughter rather than a son,” the study says.
  3. This is because families fear that the cost of having a girl increases because property inherited by women risks falling into the control of her in-laws.

Why women remain dispossessed?

  1. Changes to inheritance law are therefore not likely to improve women’s income, since it’s unlikely the woman would get to control that new asset -which has now been acquired by her marital family.
  2. There also remains a strong incentive for parents to continue rewarding a son who works on and develops a family’s land, thus contributing to the family’s “wealth creation” and security for both parties later in life.
  3. Parents perceive the risk of upsetting a son by dispossessing him of the entire property as too high, one that could impact on the quality of their future care.
  4. Parents would want to avoid splitting up the property, making it less productive, since the only way of sharing between siblings is by selling the property and distributing the proceeds.

Contemporary trends

  1. The proportion of women inheriting property “did not increase significantly following the reform,” the study says.
  2. Although laws now allow women to make legal claims to property, very few make such a move, which is perceived as anti-social and rebellious.
  3. The family is a close knit-system, girls don’t want to go against parents and brothers and fight for property if they are denied it.
  4. The entire dowry system says that the daughters have already been given a share of the money, so they’re not entitled to the property.

Status Quo on Son Preference

  1. Up to 77% of Indian parents expect to live with their sons in old age, following a ‘Patrilocal’ system where sons remain in the family home after marriage while daughters leave to join their in-laws.
  2. As per this system, by remaining in and working on the ancestral land, plus caring for parents in old age, the son is usually ‘rewarded’ by inheriting the entire property after the parents’ death.
  3. Legal reforms mandating that parents must now share equal portions of the ancestral property with both sons and daughters appear to have not changed this dynamic.
  4. Son preference remains the status quo, suggesting that patriarchal traditions exert a stronger force on parents than legislation correcting historical gender biases.

Way Forward

  1. We need a multi-prong effort focused on empowerment, education and targeted social welfare schemes that work at various levels in society for adult women.
  2. Though the legislative reform is perceived as a property issue, it’s not really — there’s a deeply ingrained internalised bias in favour of the male child which needs to be addressed.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Parliament passes law removing leprosy as ground for divorce

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Mains level: Preventing discrimination being faced by leprosy patients in the society


News

  • Parliament has passed a Bill removing leprosy as a ground for divorce under five personal laws including the Hindu Marriage Act.

The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018

  1. The bill seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce in five personal laws – Hindu Marriage Act, Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, Divorce Act (for Christians), Special Marriage Act and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.
  2. The Bill eliminates leprosy as a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce.
  3. The condition under Section 18 (2) (c) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, that a Hindu wife is entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance if the latter is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy has been omitted.

Why such move?

  1. The Law Commission in its report had recommended repeal of laws and provisions which were discriminatory against leprosy affected people.
  2. Besides, India is a signatory to a UN Resolution which calls for elimination of discrimination against persons suffering from leprosy.
  3. The proposed law follows a National Human Rights Commission recommendation a decade ago to introduce amendments in personal laws and other statutes.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Bill to counter exploitation by NRI spouses

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these scheme

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Bill

Mains level: Preventing marriage as a tool for exploitation


News

  • In a bid to counter growing incidents of exploitation of Indian women by NRI (Non Resident Indian) spouses, External Affairs Ministry has introduced a Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019

  1. According to the new Bill, a marriage between an NRI and an Indian citizen will have to be registered within 30 days from the date of marriage.
  2. Necessary legal provisions have been created in the criminal code and the Passports Act, 1967, to initiate action against erring NRI spouses.
  3. If an NRI man fails to register his marriage within 30 days of date of marriage, his passport can be impounded or revoked.
  4. Also, it allows courts to attach properties, movable and immovable, of “proclaimed offenders” or people who fail to appear before courts despite warrants being issued against them.
  5. The bill empowers passport authorities to impound or revoke passport or travel documents of NRIs who fail to register their marriage within 30 days of getting married.
  6. The proposed law will be applicable to NRIs marrying Indian women within or even outside India, the bill states.

Impact

  1. The Bill aims to prevent victimisation of Indian nationals in fraudulent marriages.
  2. The Bill will create accountability and protect those who are trapped in fraudulent marriages and are abandoned by their spouses.
  3. It is expected that the Bill will serve as a deterrent for NRI spouses, who use marriages as a tool of exploitation.

Way Forward

  1. The introduction of the Bill was necessitated by the Ministry due to numerous complaints received from Indian nationals mostly women deserted or harassed by their Non-Resident Indian Spouses.
  2. The Bill proposes to offer greater protection to Indian women married to NRIs and serve as a deterrent to NRIs against harassment of their spouses.
  3. This would provide much needed relief to all Indian women married to NRIs worldwide.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Diversion of Nirbhaya Fund

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these scheme

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nirbhaya Fund

Mains level: Women Safety Issues


News

  • A parliamentary panel headed has taken strong exception to the utilization of the Nirbhaya Fund in the construction of buildings, saying such allocations defeat the very purpose of the project — that of safety for women.

About Nirbhaya Fund

  1. Nirbhaya Fund is an rupee 10 billion corpus announced by Government of India in its 2013 Union Budget.
  2. This fund is expected to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.
  3. Nirbhaya (fearless) was the pseudonym given to the 2012 Delhi gang rape victim to hide her actual identity.
  4. The non-lapsable corpus fund was instituted following gang-grape of a girl in Delhi in 2012 which triggered a nation-wide outrage and protests.
  5. The Fund is administered by Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry.
  6. Rs 200 crore funds has been sanctioned as one-time grant for Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) Scheme for compensating women victims of acid attacks, rape, trafficking, etc.

Concerns

  1. Sanctioning money from the Nirbhaya Fund for schemes pertaining to compensation would render it as a fund merely for disbursal.
  2. This would not have a desired impact at the ground-level in enhancing the security scenario for women.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Sakhi One Stop Centre

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these scheme

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sakhi OSCs

Mains level: Women Safety Issues


News

  • More than 1,90,000 victims across the country have accessed the OSCs, sponsored by the Centre under the Nirbhaya fund .

Sakhi One Stop Centre                                          

  1. Ministry of WCD has formulated a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for setting up One Stop Centre, a sub – scheme of Umbrella Scheme for National Mission for Empowerment of women including Indira Gandhi Mattritav Sahyaog Yojana.
  2. It is a scheme sponsored under the Nirbhaya fund set up for safety of women after the gang rape of a paramedical student in December 2012 in New Delhi.
  3. It being established across the country to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces in phased manner.
  4. The scheme envisages an OSC for medical, legal, psychological and police help for victims of gender-based abuse such as sexual assault or domestic violence.
  5. So far, 234 OSCs have been set up and 485 more are in the pipeline to cover all 719 districts in the country.
  6. According to government data shared before Parliament, more than 1,90,000 women across the country have accessed these centres.

Functioning of the OSCs

  1. When a victim of domestic violence comes here, she is asked what relief she wants.
  2. If she wants a compromise, the husband is called and both of them are counselled.
  3. After this, she is asked to sign on an agreement letter and is sent back to her home and a follow-up is conducted.
  4. If a rape victim comes to the centre , it is first ascertained whether she is speaking the truth.
  5. First the centre in-charge speaks to her and then a counsellor cross-examines her.

Ending up with a Compromise

  1. According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data for 2015, Ajmer ranked third among all districts in Rajasthan in terms of crimes against women and recorded 1,303 cases.
  2. Of these 792 or 60% of crimes pertained to cruelty by husband or his family.
  3. Between October 2017 and December 2018, the centre has seen a total of 472 cases.
  4. Nearly 84% of these are cases of domestic violence and “compromise” is considered the most important way of resolving matters between spouses.
  5. A register on follow-up of cases records one-line remarks and the most common among them is, “everything is fine”.

Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] A case of unprincipled criminalization

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these scheme

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ordinance Making Power of President, Bail Provisions of the ordinance

Mains level: Triple Talaq and issues related to it. Uniform civil code debate.


Context

The content of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 (Triple Talaq Bill) clearly reflects a sectarian overtone that even attempted to mislead the public by distorting the Supreme Court judgment in Shayara Bano’s case (2017).

Background

Key provisions of the Bill:

The Bill makes all declaration of Talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.

1.Definition: It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.  Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

2.Offence and penalty: The Bill makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine.  (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.)  The offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by: (i) the married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or (ii) any person related to her by blood or marriage.

3.The Bill provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused. The bail may be granted only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced), and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.

4.The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman (against whom talaq has been declared). Compounding refers to the procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings, and settle the dispute.  The terms and conditions of the compounding of the offence will be determined by the Magistrate.

5.Allowance: A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children.  The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.

6.Custody: A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. The manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.

Significance:

  1. Time has come to put an end to the suffering of Muslim women who have been at the receiving end of instant talaq for several years. More than 20 Islamic countries have already banned the practice.

Criticism-

The Bill is a classic case of an unfair and deceptive legislative move with a populist agenda, which in a country like India should call for a novel and effective judicial scrutiny.

  • First of all, in the emblematic judgment in Shayara Bano the majority on the Bench had invalidated the practice by terming it as unconstitutional.
  1. However,the Bill proposes to criminalise an act which is non est in the eye of the law.
  2. The disproportionate punishment of imprisonment for three years for a civil wrong without even a civil consequence due to the Supreme Court’s judgment is antithetical to the very idea of principled criminalisation.
  3. Paradoxically, it was in 2018 that the top court has ostensibly developed this concept by way of the verdicts on homosexuality (Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India) and adultery (Joseph Shine v. Union of India).
  • Second, the majority verdict in Shayara Bano did not direct the government or Parliament to criminalise triple talaq or “to give effect to the order”, as implied in the Bill.
  1. There was no need to do so either, as the judgment got effectuated on its own. The judgment had no intention to create any deterrent, since the very act of triple talaq is void ab initio, according to the Supreme Court.
  2. The Bill thus tries to distort the intent and content of what the court said in Shayara Bano case.
  3. The Bill assumes validity for an action which the court invalidated, and as such the very thematic premise for the Bill is artificial, erroneous and even contemptuous.
  4. The settled legal principle in India that no ill motive could be attributed to legislation would require a revisit, when politics overweighs constitutionalism.
  • Third, criminalisation of triple talaq, can only motivates to resort to other methods of divorce which do not fall within the ambit of the Bill or to simply desert his wife.
  1. Thus the Bill does not serve the Muslim woman’s interest.

Conclusion

  1. By trying to segregate a particular mode of divorce in a particular community and to punish the men of that community alone, the Centre is trying to shatter two fundamental tenets of the Indian Constitution — equality in the eye of the law and secularism.
Subscribe
Notify of
15 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments