This is a guest post by MADHU MEHRA: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, more popularly called the Anti-rape Bill, is now law. The outrage following the homicidal gang rape in Delhi unleashed events that lent force to the longstanding demand by the women’s movement for comprehensive reform of laws relating to sexual assault. These demands were bolstered by the recommendations of the high level committee, headed by retired Justice Verma, that called for reform of criminal laws, police reforms, prevention and education interventions to effectively tackle impunity for sexual violence. With the new bill passed by the parliament, the law stands substantially changed. This article takes stock of the ways in which the new amendments re-framed sexual offences in the law, their significance and the challenges that remain. While being far from comprehensive, these changes substantially transform the way legal redress for sexual offences have been framed in the law. A few examples below contextulise the significance.
ARVIND NARRAIN has an op-ed in today’s Hindu about the Justice Verma Committee. This is a longer version of the article
The public discourse post the brutal rape of Nirbhaya has witnessed a persistent degrading of the public discourse. Having been subjected to crudely offensive remarks by members of the political establishment, right from belittling a serious movement for equality as led by ‘painted and dented ladies’ to ostensibly sympathetic responses which belittle women who have suffered a serious violation of their bodily integrity as nothing more than ‘zinda laash’, we finally have a document authored by a Committee set up by the state which honours Nirbhaya.
The Verma Committee Report most fundamentally alters the public discourse on crimes against women by placing these crimes within the framework of the Indian Constitution and treating these offences as nothing less than an egregious violation of the right to live with dignity of all women. What is particularly moving and inspiring about the Report is that it does so by placing the autonomy and indeed the sexual autonomy of women at the very centre of its discourse.