PRESS RELEASE-Oppose Selective Manner in Implementation of Justice Verma Committee Recommendations #Vaw #discrimination #disability


 

National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled

4, Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110 001

 

February 4, 2013

Press Statement

 

The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled condemns the opaque manner in which the Government has introduced an Ordinance to give effect to some of the amendments recommended by the Justice Verma Committee, to the law governing sexual offences, despite opposition from women’s organisations and some political parties.

 

The Justice Verma Committee had recommended a range of amendments to the criminal law, in order to protect the rights of women against sexual violence. The Committee recommended a number of amendments to the substantive and procedural law specifically addressing the needs of disabled victims of sexual assault. The Ordinance introduced by the Government has included a few of these changes:

 

·        The disabled may not be required by the Police to go to any place other their residence in relation to investigation

·        Specific provisions for the disabled in Test Identification Parades for identifying the accused

·        Assistance to be provided to the disabled while recording statement before the Magistrate and such statement to be considered adequate for the purpose of examination in chief during the trial

·        The phrase ‘dumb witness’ in Section 119 of the Indian Evidence Act has been replaced with ‘persons who are unable to communicate verbally’

 

While these are indeed important changes in the law, which could positively impact the experience of persons with disabilities while dealing with the legal system, we feel the changes are piecemeal in nature and do not address the more substantive concerns that both women’s organisations and disability groups had expressed.

Making the offence of sexual assault gender neutral would harm disabled women disproportionately. There is a widespread belief that disabled women are unable to control their sexual urges and hence make sexual advances on men, who are then wrongly charged with sexual offences. Our experience of handling cases of sexual assault on disabled women shows that even the police and heads of institutions share this belief, and hence do not take steps against the wrong doer. Making sexual offences gender neutral with respect to both the victim and perpetrator would result in situations where the male assaulter would be able to file counter-allegations of sexual assault against the disabled women, which would add to their further victimization.

The NPRD expresses its strong opposition to the selective manner in which the Government has incorporated the recommendations of the Verma Committee into the law. Since Parliament is scheduled to begin its next session shortly, it is inexplicable why the Government should resort to the Ordinance route, in a non-transparent and undemocratic manner, keeping key stakeholders in the dark.

 

PRESS RELEASE- #Justiceverma recommendations in context of assaults against women with disabilities #delhigangrape


National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled

4, Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110 001

 

 

January 24, 2013

 

 

Press Statement

 

The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) welcomes the report and recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee concerning sexual violence against women.

The NPRD puts on record its appreciation of the seriousness with which the Committee has considered the specific issues concerning women with disabilities and the sexual assaults they face. Representatives of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) met the Committee on three occasions, and made its submissions.

The Committee has, amongst others, made the following recommendations, in the context of assaults against women with disabilities:

Duty of the State: The Committee has affirmed the duty of the State as the guarantor of the Fundamental Rights of disabled women and has stated that the involvement of private actors in providing services to the disabled, does not absolve the State of its Constitutional duty towards them.

The Committee has also invoked the idea of parens patriae (the State has the same rights over its citizens that the parent has over his ward) to describe the role of the State.

However, experience shows that protection by the State is like a double-edged sword. When the State takes over the role of the parent, it often overrides the opinion of the ward; the State then decides what is good for the ward and what is not. This could at times go against the interests of the disabled. This issue also needs to be addressed.

 

Making the Legal System Accessible: In its submissions to the Committee, the NPRD had highlighted the difficulties encountered by disabled women at each stage of the criminal-legal process, right from filing an FIR, to testifying in court during the trial. The Committee has responded to the submissions by recommending the following:

·        When a physically or mentally disabled woman lodges a complaint of rape (Section 376 Indian Penal Code) or outraging of modesty (Section 354 IPC), such complaint shall be recorded by a woman police officer at the residence of such woman, or wherever she is comfortable. The complaint shall be recorded in the presence of a special educator or interpreter, depending on the need of the complainant. The entire process of recording of the complaint should also be videographed. (Section 154 Code of Criminal Procedure)

·        A physically or mentally disabled woman cannot be asked to go to the police station. Her complaint must be recorded at her residence or wherever she is comfortable. (Section 160 CrPC)

·        During the process of Test Identification Parade, if the person identifying the arrestee is physically or mentally disabled, then the identification process must be videographed. (Section 54A CrPC)

·        While recording the statement of a physically or mentally disabled woman in court, the Magistrate must take the assistance of a special educator or interpreter, depending on the needs of the complainant. Additionally, the recording of testimony of the woman should be videographed. (Section 164(5)(a) CrPC)

·        Additionally, the statement made in the above manner shall be treated as a statement for the purpose of cross examination during the trial and the physically or mentally disabled woman would not have to re-state the same. (Section 164(5)(b) CrPC)

·        Section 119 of the Indian Evidence Act, provides for the recording of testimony of ‘dumb witnesses’. The Committee has recommended that this derogatory phrase be replaced with ‘persons who are unable to communicate verbally’.

One of the major reasons why most cases involving rape of disabled women fail to convict the wrongdoer is because the testimony of the victim is not given due importance by the police or the court. The above recommendations, if incorporated in the law would go a long way in addressing this problem.

However, the definition of ‘special educator’ and ‘interpreter’ require further clarity when these recommendations are incorporated into the law. In our deliberations with the Committee we had stated that a special educator may not know sign language and an interpreter may know only a few signs, and therefore may not be always equipped to provide the required assistance in bridging the communication barrier between the victim and the legal system.

Medico-Legal Examination: Medical examination of the victim is of utmost relevance in cases of rape, both from the point of view of providing medical aid and from the point of gathering evidence for the trial. The Committee has recommended the setting up of Sexual Assault Crisis Centres at government and private hospitals to carry out this task. The Committee has recommended that the Counsellors present in these Centres should be professionally qualified to address the needs of disabled victims of sexual assault. In addition, the report of the counsellor regarding disability of the victim should be part of the medico-legal evidence that is submitted to the court.

Safety of Women and Abuse within Institutions: The Committee has affirmed that every citizen has a right to protection against violence and it is the duty of the State to provide safe spaces to all women, including disabled women. The Committee has recommended that such safe spaces should be accessible to the disabled in terms of architectural design, management and provision of services.  To address abuse of disabled children within institutions, the Committee has suggested that all such institutions and homes must be registered with the concerned High Court with the court acting as the guardian of such children.

The Committee has recommended that the concerned High Court should act as an oversight mechanism to all the institutions in the state and there should be weekly reports submitted to the High Court. The suggestion to professionalize the recruitment of care takers and superintendents, in terms of having mandatory qualifications etc. is a welcome suggestion and would improve the conditions of these institutions and the way they are currently managed.

Power Asymmetry and Socialization in Schools: The Committee has observed that it must be the task of educational institutions to recognise discriminatory attitudes among children on the basis of gender, disability, caste and so on and rectify the same.

Sex Education: The Committee has recognized that sex education must also be provided to disabled children and young people by professionally trained teachers and care givers, to ensure their safety and holistic development.

Aggravated Sexual Assault: The Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012, which is at present before the Parliament provides that sexual assault against physically or mentally disabled women, is classified as an ‘aggravated sexual assault’ and has a minimum punishment of ten years imprisonment. While the Committee has endorsed most of the provisions in the Bill, it is unfortunate that this clause is absent from the Committee’s recommendations.

In the light of these recommendations made by the Committee, it is of utmost importance that the government act immediately. The NPRD demands that the recommendations made by the committee with regard to changes in laws should be passed in the Budget session of parliament. It also demands that necessary budgetary allocations for requisite infrastructure and providing personnel and their training should be made for implementing the other recommendations made by the Committee.

(Muralidharan)

Assistant Convener

National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)

9868768543

 

 

#India-Assault on women with disabilities draws focus #Vaw


By , TNN | Jan 7, 2013,

KOLKATA: Close on the heels of the alleged rape bid on a woman with disabilities at Thakurpukur in December last year, 25 organizations representing persons with disabilities have petitioned Justice J S Verma, the chairperson of the commission formed to suggest amendments to laws on safety of women, “over its limited terms of reference”. The panel was formed after the Nirbhaya case.

Among all the cases of assault on women with disabilities cited in the petition, a majority took place in Bengal.

“Girls and women with disabilities are more vulnerable to exploitation. They are considered soft targets, with the perpetrators assuming they can get away easily. In many cases, such women are unable to comprehend or communicate about such acts of violence. Some reports suggest they are up to three times more likely to be victims of abuse as compared to other women,” says the petition. Three Bengal organizations – Centre for Care of Tortured Victims, Paschim Banga Rajya Prathibandhi Sammelani and Sruti Disability Rights Centre – are part of the petition prepared by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD).

“There are no consolidated figures on violence against women with disabilities. But the magnitude and scale of the attacks can be gauged by the fact that in 2012 alone there were

dozens of cases of sexual violence on women with disabilities were reported in the media from Bengal. Despite this, no attempt was made to map the magnitude of the problem. Neither the NCRB nor any other source has authentic figures,” says Muralidharan, NPRD assistant convener.

Several cases have been cited in the petition, with one case each from Chandigarh and Aurangabad and the rest from Bengal. It contains the testimony of a visual impaired girl at an event by Jadavpur University and Sruti Disability Rights Centre, who said: “I face sexual abuse regularly. I have to commute to college by public bus and need help in crossing roads and during bus rides where people take advantage of my condition. I can’t see, so identifying the molester is difficult. And others think he was just helping me board the bus. Who would believe me?”

Among the cases cited are the Bankura Medical College case, where a hearing-impaired girl was allegedly raped by a doctor in February 2012, the case of a national-level para-athlete who was allegedly raped by an auto driver in North Dinajpur in June 2012, and the Hooghly tragedy where a woman’s body was found buried at a home run by an NGO Dulal Smriti Samsad in July 2012.

The petition suggests several measures on compilation of data, support to victims, sensitization of police, monitoring of institutions and counselling and rehabilitation.

After a spate of attacks on women with disabilities, a team from the National Commission for Women visited Bengal in April 2012, and recommended that the requirements of persons with special needs have to be kept in mind by all police stations and medical establishments so that they are provided with support including services of interpreters, readers, professionals, psychologists and NGOs depending on the nature of the case. “A panel of experts for this purpose can be prepared for each district in consultation with the disabilities commissioner and the WCD department,” it said.

 

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