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Soon, gender-neutral laws

Continuing with its measures to make the country’s legal system women-friendly, the government is set to amend the “gender- biased” laws, reports Nagendar Sharma.

delhi Updated: Jan 05, 2010 00:03 IST
Nagendar Sharma

Continuing with its measures to make the country’s legal system women-friendly, the government is set to amend the “gender- biased” laws.

It wants to send out an effective message after the Ruchika case exposed the bias in the existing laws.

Ruchika ended her life in 1993 after former Haryana police chief SPS Rathore molested her in 1990 and allegedly harassed her family.

“We have decided to review all gender-biased laws, which affect the legitimate rights of women. All laws should be gender-neutral,” Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily told HT.

“Divorce and property laws are the two examples of gender-biased laws, and we are considering amendments in existing laws to ensure equal rights for women and a time-bound trial to reduce their sufferings.”

It will soon be possible for single women to adopt a child, following the Union Cabinet’s approval to amend the adoption law, the minister said.

“The cabinet has cleared the proposal to amend the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, and Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. We are now going to convert these laws into gender-neutral laws,” he said.

According to the current laws, a couple can adopt only if the man is named the guardian.

On divorce laws, he said: “There is no need for divorce cases to drag on for years when the marriage has broken down. Cases must be decided in a time-bound manner...”

He conceded that “there is a need to relook at the property laws”. For example, the Land Reforms Act of 2005 entitles a male child and his family to the family property while married girl child is denied the same.

Moily said his ministry has set the process in motion by sending a new draft law to the home ministry for special courts to try sexual offences, which will make it mandatory that the trial be completed in six months and anticipatory bail for the accused wouldn’t be allowed.

“No questions on the character of the victim of sexual violence (molestation, attempt to rape and rape) will be allowed during the trial and the statement will only be recorded in presence of a woman officer,” he said.