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Victim’s account may be more conclusive than medical finding


Context: The alleged gang rape of a woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, in September brought forth an important issue concerning the relevance of forensic evidence of the victim of rape, i.e., about the signs of recent sexual intercourse and struggle.

Relevance:

GS Paper 1: Role of women and women’s organisation.

GS Paper 2: Welfare Schemes (centre, states; performance, mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for protection of vulnerable sections);

Mains questions:

  1. Our Constitution, recognising the systemic degradation of lower caste persons, mandated prohibition on caste and sex based discrimination. Discuss the statement in context of growing rape incidents against women. 15 marks
  2. The challenge of India is to restore the culture of rule of law, and make police and justice accessible, effective and credible. Analyse the statement in context of Hathras rape case. 15 marks

Dimensions of the article:

  • Status of women safety in India.
  • Challenges related to women safety in India.
  • Steps taken by the government for women safety.
  • Way forward

Status of women safety in India:

  • Women safety involves various dimensions such as Sexual harassment at workplace, rape, marital rape, dowry, acid attack etc.
  • The United Nation’s ‘Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces’ programme, which started in 2010, recognized that cities all around the world were becoming unsafe for women.
  • The latest NCRB data for the year 2016 shows that Overall crimes against women have risen by just about 3%, whereas incidents of rape have gone up by 12%.
  • Majority of cases categorized as crimes against women were reported under ‘Cruelty by husband or his relatives’ (32.6%). This draws a bleak picture of women safety in private places or home.

Challenges related to women safety in India:

  • Lack of reporting: It is seen as a major roadblock for creating a safe atmosphere for women.
  • Slow criminal justice system: The investigation and disposal of cases take long time thereby encourage offenders.
  • Inadequate implementation: Many employers are yet to establish Internal complaints committee which is a clear violation of law.
  • Poor gender sensitization of law enforcing agencies like police, judiciary etc.
  • Various social factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society etc. also pose a challenge.
  • Frivolous complaints: This is seen mostly in context of domestic violence act.
  • Exclusion by Technology: Technology though helpful to enhance public safety in certain ways, but its scope is limited so far as they exclude women without access to smartphones.
  • Hinders women development: For example- Sexual harassment at workplace is one of the most important causes of low labour force participation rate of women in India. Male dominated nature of India’s public sphere is being recognized but not challenged.

Steps taken by the government for women safety:

  • For sexual harassment at workplace VISHAKA guidelines by Supreme Court which provide measures to be taken by employers, Sexual Harassment of Women at workplace (prevention prohibition and redressal) Act 2013 by parliament, SHE Box by Ministry Of Women and Child Development for online complaint.
  • For rape cases: Proposal of Justice Verma Committee was accepted to treat juvenile between 16-18 years age as an adult for committing heinous crimes. Recently, the government has brought amendments in PoCSO act 2012 in which Rape of girl child below 12 years will be punished by death penalty
  • For domestic violence: Domestic violence act 2005 and Section 498A of IPC deals with cruelty by husband or relatives.
  • SWADHAR: A Scheme for Women in Difficult Circumstances, GPS tracking, ‘panic buttons’ etc.
  • Government is also planning to set up a dedicated National Mission on women safety to ensure specified actions by Ministries and Department

Way forward:

  • Strengthening criminal justice machinery: Strict enforcement of laws, setting up of fast track special courts, strengthening of prosecution machinery, strengthening of Alternate Dispute resolution mechanism like Lok Adalat, implementing Draft National Policy for Women 2016 in letter and spirit etc.
  • Encourage women to step up and speak to the relevant committee in the organization in case of any issues such as harassment and improper conduct and situation. Women should also be trained for selfdefence.
  • Gender sensitisation of the law enforcement agencies, especially the police and the judiciary through periodic training as well as instituting gender-sensitization trainings incorporates
  • Development of a community-based strategy to tackle domestic violence and community policing initiatives such as Mahila Suraksha Samiti and Women State Committee to check crimes
  • Adopting zero tolerance policy towards any form of harassment at the workplace. It should be embedded in an organization’s various policies and principles, such as the code of conduct.
  • Civil society in collaboration with all sections of society should organize several grass root movements. Many movements like ‘Pinjra Tod’ and ‘One Billion Rising’ are contributing significantly via bottom up approach for the cause of women safety.
  • Moral education: Moral overhauling of the mindset of masses should be attempted through awareness and education.
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October 2022
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