UN regrets anti-rape law not reflecting Verma panel views

New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) The United Nations Wednesday expressed regret that the anti-rape law passed by the government after the December 16 gang-rape incident did not fully reflect the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee.

“Recommendations on marital rape, lesbians and age of consent (for sex) were not adopted in the legislation,” UN special rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo told reporters here.

She said: “I welcome the government of India’s speedy response after the rape incident of December 16. A judicial committee headed by late Justice Verma was established, and new legislative measures were adopted earlier this year. While this legislative reform is to be commended, it is regrettable that the amendments do not fully reflect the Verma commission’s recommendations”.

“I hope further amendments to take cognizance of the vulnerable groups would now be included,” she said.

Manjoo also rapped the government on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

“The AFSPA has mostly resulted in impunity for human rights violations broadly, according to information received. In testimonies received, it was clear that the interpretation and implementation of this act is eroding fundamental rights and freedoms,” she said, in a report written after her visit to the country which began April 22.

“The violation of human rights under the guise of state security are violation of international laws,” Manjoo said, adding, “the calls for the repeal of the act are consistently made on the basis of India’s violation of international laws.”

The anti-rape law brought out by the government introduced stricter penalties for crimes against women, including death in extreme cases, but ignored the Verma committee’s recommendations on criminalising marital rape and reviewing controversial sections of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The report by the special rapporteur would be submitted to the session of United Nations General Council June 2014.

Asked what kind of laws, in her opinion, might deter violence against women, Manjoo said there was need for more preventive measures and effective accountability.

“The death penalty was not a deterrent anywhere in the world,” she said.

The UN representative also expressed unhappiness that she could not meet any ministers or top officials of the government as part of her mission.

“When we begin any such mission, sending a request for meetings with government is the practice,” Manjoo explained. She said though there was no refusal about meeting anyone, there was “silence and silence is no acquiescence”.

The report also mentioned violence against women during incidents of communal violence.

“Communal violence, inspired by religious intolerance, does manifest in some parts of India. Indiscriminate attacks by religious majorities on religious, including Christian and Muslim, minorities is frequently explained away by implying that equal aggression was noted on both sides,” she said.

“This issue is of particular concern to many, as the wounds of the past are still fresh for women who were beaten, stripped naked, burnt, raped and killed because of their religious identity in the Gujarat massacre of 2002,” the special rapporteur’s report said.

Manjoo also expressed concern over the declining sex-ratio in India, status of domestic workers and atrocities on women with disabilities.

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