Concerned at the sharply escalating number of assaults on women, rapes and murders, we urge the govt. to consider the following suggestions put forward by our group in a quest for justice and making our country safe for its women citizens.
1. Amendment of Juvenile Justice Laws
Some parts of current juvenile justice laws are not in tandem with international protocols, and also scientifically unsound. They need to be reviewed and revised and evolve with the society they are designed to serve.
*The age of 16-18 years should be considered as a ‘transition zone’ between childhood and adulthood. Delinquents falling in this age bracket must not be under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts only. In this subset, those convicted of heinous crimes like homicide and rape, must be tried in an adult court and given a severe sentence.
*For younger offenders committing serious offences like sexual assault and homicide, the minimum sentence should be 10 years in a remand home. After which, there must be proper re-evaluation by a board of expert psychiatrists before they are declared fit enough to be released from the home and reintegrated into the society at large.
*Records of mental health and crimes committed by teenagers must be maintained meticulously by the remand homes for each delinquent.
*Rapes of minors should be treated as a special category and special wards for minors should be set up in hospitals. All hospitals to be directed to comply with this requirement forthwith. Teams consisting of paediatricians, counsellors and specially trained nurses should handle such cases.
2. Speedy and trustworthy processing of samples in Criminal Forensic Laboratories
*The collection and processing of data such as vaginal swabs in rape cases is wholly inadequate and needs thorough overhaul.
*The current laboratories should conform to international ISO Protocols and all records should be independently verifiable and specimens preserved for review by other labs in case of conflicting reports.
*Scientists/ lab assistants who allow specimen tampering should be considered to be aiding and abetting the crime and dealt with in the severest possible manner.
*The long waiting period for sample processing should be brought down to one month by increasing the number of forensic laboratories from the current 3-4 existing today. The entire cost of a good DNA Analysis system along with supporting infrastructural requirements is currently well under 1 crore. Thus, apart from their being a necessity, new centres are easily affordable.
3. Speedy implementation of Police Reforms
Police reforms to begin being implemented, in stages if necessary.
Low tolerance for non-performance of duty by police officers and those preventing lodgement of FIR’S unnecessarily should be deemed to be aiding and abetting the criminal.
All FIR‘s lodged should be in camera. This will discourage rude behaviour from police officials and perhaps bring down the rate of lodgement of false and vengeful counter FIR’S against the victim and victim’s family.
4. Schools to modify curriculum where incomplete
Moral science (ethics and values) must be made a mandatory subject in all syllabi.
Gender equality must be emphasised by teachers.
Teachers and counsellors in schools to educate children on the need to speak up if sexually assaulted/teased inappropriately.
Punishments must be put in place for sexually inappropriate behaviour in schools with a view to discourage students from such behaviour from an early age.
Students to be encouraged to employ and enjoy clean humour while bantering with friends.
5. Treatment of Sexual assault victims on priority basis
Victims of sexual assault and acid attacks should be given top priority in medical treatment at government hospitals.
The initial cost of treatment up to Rs 1 lac should be borne by the concerned state government. Criminals accused of sexual assault should also be forced to furnish a monetary fine along with incurring a life sentence/ death penalty. Funds collected from wealthier criminals who can furnish such should be used to set up a rape victims’ welfare trust.
All victims should also be provided with free counselling and psychiatric assistance to not give in to despair and be able to get back to a happy and healthy life soon.
6. Basic infrastructure such as Public Toilets should be universally available
Public toilets, separate ones for men and women, must be provided in every village and at regular intervals in bigger towns and cities. This should be an immediate priority, along with electricity and water.
The Justice Seekers is a group of serving and retired professionals and several women’s NGO’s working together to improve women’s safety and gender equality in India.