A little over a month after the Centre enacted the anti-rape law introducing stricter penalties for crime against women, Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Wednesday expressed regret that the landmark legislation did not fully reflect the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma committee.
The committee was constituted last December in the aftermath of the nation-wide outrage following the brutal rape of a 23-year-old medical student to review possible amendments of the criminal law so as to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment to criminals in rape cases.
Addressing a press conference Wednesday Manjoo said that Justice Verma committee’s recommendation and subsequent legislation was a “golden moment for India” but the law did not completely adopt certain recommendations to safeguard interest of vulnerable sections like women and children like criminalizing marital rape, age of consent and repealing sections of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), etc.
“Recommendations on marital rape, age of consent for sex, etc. were not adopted in the legislation. I hope further amendments to take cognizance of the vulnerable groups would now be included,” she told reporters.
Manjoo who is the first independent expert to visit India, after the December 16 incident, to assess the overall situation of violence against women in the country is also not in favour of death penalty as a punishment for rape. “I doubt anywhere in the world...there is nothing to suggest that death penalty is a deterrent... One needs to look at what purpose does it serve,” she said and suggested that transformation of the society and empowerment of women is more important to address the issue.
Demand for death penalty for rapists have been growing amidst a spate in violent gender crimes reported from across India.
She 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.”
Manjoo will submit her report to the session of United Nations General Council June 2014.