Failure of good governance is the root cause of crimes against women: Justice Verma
Failure of good governance is the root cause of such incidents like rape and various assaults on women, said former Chief Justice of India J. S. Verma who headed the three member committee to review laws for crimes against women.
"Rape, sexual assault, eve-teasing and stalking are matters of serious concern, which are being tolerated by the society. It is not only the state's responsibility, but it is the fundamental responsibility of every citizen to make women feel free and safe. The state's role is not just to punish criminals, but also to prevent crimes against women," said former Chief Justice Verma while submitting their report to the Union Home Ministry.
"The duty of the state is to provide a safe environment to women, and failure to do this, renders it accountable. Merely addressing the end stage of rape is not enough. We have to address from the initial stages to protect women from sexual harassment. The state is responsible for any inaction that may cause or violate human rights," he added.
He further mentioned that the kind of satisfaction he felt with his involvement in this exercise is not matched by anything else.
Justice (Retired.) Leila Seth, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, who is also a member of the committee, said that socio-economic conditions impede women's access to justice.
"When a woman belongs to weaker section, she has the twin disadvantage of being a woman and economically disadvantaged. In a 1992 case, judge held upper caste men don't rape Dalit women," she said.
Justice Seth also questioned the legitimacy of Khap panchayats and asked how can they rule against marriages made of free choice?
Another member of the committee and former Solicitor General of India, Gopal Subramanian, said that the report deals with the construct of gender justice in India and the various obstructions there are.
"We have gone into various international covenants that deal with human rights - and how the state needs to act as parents. We have also looked at physical sexual and psychological violence in the family, including marital rape," said Subramanian.
He also emphasised that sexual violence by personnel in uniform must be brought under common law to ensure security and dignity of women in conflict areas.
"There is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act) in areas as soon as possible. If any police officer, public servant is found trafficking a child there would be a stricter sentence against him," he added.
The nation-wide movement demanding amendment of the laws regarding crimes against women in the wake of the brutal gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi on December 16, forced the Government constitute the committee.
The gang raped woman died of her injuries on December 29, 2012 in the multi-specialty Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.
The committee had earlier issued a notice seeking suggestions from the public in general, particularly eminent jurists, legal professionals, NGOs, women''s groups and civil society members in a bid to provide quicker justice and stringent punishment for crimes against women.