Call for Rejection of Incomplete Sexual Violence Legislation in India

Adivasi_women_dancing,_India

Target: Legislators of India

Goal: Reject recently proposed (and glaringly incomplete) sexual violence ordinance

Since the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi in December 2012, the issue of sexual violence has been elevated in India. With this new emphasis on the issue of sexual violence and assault against women, legislators have put together an ordinance, which was recently signed by President Pranab Mukherjee.  Although this is the right idea, the piece of legislation itself is flawed, and must be reworked in order to properly protect the women of India.

The fact remains that sexual violence legislation must reflect international human rights standards and laws. Without the incorporation of these standards, the well-meaning new law will undoubtedly fall short. “The new ordinance at long last reforms India’s colonial-era laws on sexual violence, but fails to provide crucial human rights protections and redress for victims,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, “Indian parliamentarians should insist on a law that deals with these critical issues.”

As pointed out by Human Rights watch, this new ordinance (Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance of 2013) fails to criminalize the full range of sexual violence with appropriate punishments, it includes derogatory language and discriminatory provisions, and preserves immunity for law enforcement and state security forces accused of sexual violence.

More specifically, the amendment fails to fully recognize marital rape, only criminalizing the act under very specific circumstances—where the wife is “living separately under a decree of separation or under any custom or usage.” The measure uses antiquated, discriminatory language and terminology, often referring to sexual violence against women as “insults” or “outrages” to women’s “modesty,” rather than crimes against her right to bodily integrity and security.

These gender biased concepts and language must be stricken from any legislation enacted by the government of India. Furthermore, immunity for police and law enforcement officials who have committed sexual assault cannot go on unaddressed. The new ordinance does nothing to rescind current policies that put enforcement officials above the law in many cases, making it illegal for these officers to be prosecuted for sexual violence unless the government itself approves the prosecution—a process that rarely happens.

This long awaited change to India’s sexual violence laws ought to be thoughtfully and thoroughly carried out. Call upon India’s legislators to reject this new ordinance and take the necessary steps to improve upon it. Only a thorough policy, in line with international human rights standards and laws, ought to be enacted. The women of India have waited long enough, it is high time the government do right by them.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Legislators of India,

It is commendable that the government of India has taken the next step in protecting its women from sexual assault and violence. However, the new ordinance approved by President Pranab Mukherjee is a severely defective piece of policy that ought to be rejected until it is can appropriately protect India’s women.

As the measure stands now, there is nearly nonexistent protection for victims of marital rape, rampant use of gender discriminatory language and concepts, and no attempt to correct the immunity that law enforcement officials and police officers hold when it comes to sexual violence prosecutions.

“Instead of passing a deeply flawed ordinance, the Indian cabinet should table a well-drafted comprehensive bill addressing gender-based violence, especially sexual violence, in its forthcoming budget session,” noted G. Ananthapadmanabhan, chief executive of Amnesty International India. “The parliament should engage in meaningful consultations with civil society groups, and ensure that any new laws complies with international standards.”

Please take the time to make this ordinance worthwhile, and bring the measure up to date with current international human rights standards and laws.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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