Verma Committee report kindles hope: Let’s fan the flames!

Most, if not all reviews of the Justice Verma Committee Report on Amendments to Criminal Law in the context of gender-related safety and sexual offences, declare it to have seized the moment in proposing changes that could have far reaching impact if implemented. It is indeed a hopeful sign for all those of us who have fretted and worried, stood in protest, and hoped to hell something will happen of the momentum of activism and sheer anger that our nation’s citizens unleashed post the Delhi gang rape.

To sum up the report’s positives, rape is now defined within the context of sexual crimes as any act of non-consensual penetration, while sexual assault includes all forms of non-consensual non-penetrative touching of sexual nature. Marital rape is very much recommended to be within the purview of this criminal offense. The committee recommends that marriage cannot be offered as defense and is not relevant to the matter of rape. A huge step forward for the country this would be, if implemented.

Much praise has come in for the committee’s inclusion of people of all sexual orientations in its recommendations. This broader view of dealing with sexual crime as perpetrated against any citizen regardless of gender or sexual orientation, in my opinion, is really relevant in making this issue universally relevant and not just about women’s safety. For the inclusion of a gendered perspective in our society is necessary so that we all evolve to be more sensitive citizens and so that we deter criminals of all types.

Further, the recommendations of increasing the punishment terms of rapists from a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life imprisonment is a balanced one; the report rules out both the death penalty as well as castration and this too sends out the right signals about India’s position as a humanitarian democracy. I have been really disturbed about the baying for blood that has been a strong strain in protests post the Delhi gang rape and am heartened by the Verma Committee recommendations.

Police reforms and the amendment of AFSPA, in which sexual offences in conflict zones are specifically addressed, are other positives that deserve mention.

Of course, we can take the cynical view and despair about whether these would be implemented. However, this is precisely the reason why the activism must continue. Not just women’s groups, but all concerned citizens must speak out for the need for legislation to prevent sexual exploitation. This, along with physical planning measures to increase safety in public spaces as well as support groups to help victims speak out and tackle sexual crime in their lives, are the way forward, certainly. For once, I would think the Opposition wouldn’t really have objections to most of these recommendations.

So friends, don’t let the fire die out. Speak, protest, write, do what you have to do and we can together hope for a safer India!

About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on January 25, 2013, in Politics & Citizenship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. That is brilliant! The ‘baying for blood’ by the enraged masses is justified in the case of Nirbhaya, I think. She was not only raped but brutally tortured and murdered. But, equating her harrowing experience to that of a rape is hardly fair to what she endured.
    I am not making light of what a rape victim goes through – even years after the incident. But they are still meaningful to the society. She is still alive and can therefore help herself, or others like her, get better. She can still be successful at whatever she chooses to do. I will never agree that a woman who has been raped, has lost everything, and that she is better off dead than alive. I will never agree that my only contribution to this world is my vagina. I would not seek death penalty as punishment for rape.
    Having said that, the fear of law is necessary to deter the uncivilized people from raping others, and I think that raising the term to ‘life’ may just achieve that.
    My only request is – Judges, please don’t be stupid and forgive men, or give them minimum sentences, simply because those men are the bread winners of their family. Provide skills to the wives/ daughters of the offenders so that these women may now provide for their families. But let the people who commit crimes bear the consequences of their actions.

    • Absolutely! I think judges can be competent only once the law itself is laid out well and the Committee has pointed lawmakers in the right direction…in the mire of Indian democracy, let’s see where this goes and when!

  2. I thin it is extremely important that the act of rape is demystified in our society. If the social attitude towards rape is no worse than getting badly beaten up and robbed, more women would survive the mere act of rape as an all destroying experience. I know if my daughter ever faces such a situation, I will tell her to survive with as less damage to her body, as long as she survives that, she is undamaged to the world and herself.

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