National Consultation on Access to Justice, Relief and Rehabilitation of Rape Victims

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NEW DELHI 07 MARCH 2010

A National Consultation on Access to Justice, Relief and Rehabilitation of Rape Victims was convened on 7th March 2010 in Vigyan Bhavan by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. This was part of a series of events held by the Ministry on the occasion of centenary of International Women’s Day on 8th March.

The event was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Shri K.G. Balakrishnan in the presence of Hon’ble Minister of Law and Justice, Dr. Veerappa Moily, the Hon’ble Minister of State (IC), Smt. Krishna Tirath, and the Home Secretary, Shri G.K. Pillai. It was attended by Hon’ble Chief Justices and Judges of High Court, members of National and State Legal Services Authorities, State Ministers of WCD, senior Government officials and representatives of NGOs.

In her opening address, Smt. Krishna Tirath reiterated the Ministry’s commitment to ensure effective delivery of justice to women, in all spheres. She also referred to the need for fast track courts for women, effective legal aid, and better representation of women in the judiciary.

Addressing this august gathering, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India emphasised on the need for decisive steps to deter sex offenders by investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual violence expeditiously. He welcomed the initiative taken by the Ministry of Women & Child Development in developing a comprehensive Scheme for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims. Dr. Veerappa Moily in his Special Plenary address, stated that victims of rape are given a secondary status in our criminal justice system as the entire focus of the law is on the offender. He therefore, appreciated the Ministry’s effort in drafting this scheme which achieves this goal of shifting the focus from the offender to the victim.

Two panel discussions were also held on the proposed Sexual Assault Bill and the Draft Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Victims of Rape as part of this Consultation. In the first Session, the Sexual Assault Bill was discussed. There was a consensus that the definition of ‘rape’ needs to be expanded to take into account forms of sexual assaults not covered in the existing definition under the IPC. It was felt that there is a need for a paradigm shift in the approach to this issue by looking at sexual assault from the women’s perspective and as a violation of her dignity, physical integrity and sexual autonomy. The proposed Bill recognises ‘marital’ rape as an offence and also incorporates a specific provision on sexual assault by a relative or a person in position of trust or authority or in a position of social, economic or political dominance.

During the discussions on the proposed Scheme for rape victims, the delegates expressed the view that the Scheme needs to be made more contemporary and responsive to needs of women. There was also a view that the scheme needs to emphasise more on restoration rather than ‘compensation’. Despite the fact that the proposed amendments seek to redefine rape as sexual assault, the draft Scheme for Relief to and Rehabilitation of Rape Victims would confine itself to the present definition of rape. It was also emphasised that the proposed Scheme should have a legislative backing for better enforcement.

This National Consultation was attended by more than a thousand delegates, and witnessed active participation from the members of the judiciary and civil society.

DS/SB/DB
(Release ID :59146)

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