A Four Week Online Certificate Training Course on “Ending Violence Against Women: Awareness of Laws and Policies in India”, organized by the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. The session was on “Laws and Safety for Women in Public Spaces” by Adv. Dr. Shalu Nigam, an Advocate, Author, Researcher under the themes of Gender and Human Rights and visiting senior fellow at IMPRI. Inaugurating the session Bhavni, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panelists.
The Breakthrough India Video
The session started with the screening of a video by Breakthrough India, Nazare. A video about the male gaze that almost every woman who steps foot outside the walls of her own house has faced once in her lifetime. The video most importantly set in the context of how common subtle signs of harassment prevail against women in the country. The video also showcased how if a woman decides to stand up against the harasser, and meet her “nazare” with the same, she manages to put a standstill on the subtle harassment happening against her through the said abuser.
During the session the speaker also explained in detail that how laws against sexual harassment for women and laws against sexual harrasment against women came in the legal structure, after the painful and heartbreaking incident of Bhanwari Devi in Rajasthan.
Cases in Indian History that Changed Laws
She also talked about the laws for protection of women during colonial India and how consent became part of the legal lingo, when 10 year old Phulmoni Das was married off to a 30 year old Mohan Maiti, and refused to consummate the marriage. Because of this case age of consent was decided by the law which was 12 years of age. As Phulmoni was married at an age younger than 12, the consummation of marriage was legally termed as rape. The speaker also discussed the case of Rukhmabai who was married at an age when she couldn’t have given consent.
Among making heartbreaking yet pivoting cases in India history regarding rape, consent and sexual liberty for women, the Mathura Rape Case of 1972 was also discussed in the session. After a long legal battle, custodial rape was decalred punishable and norms like if the women hadn’t struggle during the rape, she consented to it were bashed down legally.
The speaker also mentioned about the Nirbhaya Rape case and the Justice Verma Committee. The Criminal law (Amendment) Act. 2018 asks the hospital both government and private to give free medical aid to the rape victim. Not following the protocol will be treated as rejecting the law. According to the law, only a female police officer can take the victim’s statement and if the victim happens to be disabled, it is the duty of the officer to go to the victim’s house, videotape their statement and have professionals alongside them so that they can communicate with the victims.
The law also strictly mentions that any underage victim should not come in contact with the accused under any circumstance in order to protect the victim and prevent tarnishing of the case.
There is a special law to protect children against sexual abuse, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act, 2012 which is extremely crucial to protect child victims. This act doesn’t recognize sexual acts between a child and an adult. The law tries to protect children and their childhood from any long-lasting trauma.
As the world is evolving, so are the methods to harass women. Even online spaces are not safe for them. The speaker discussed how online stalking and harassment is at an all time high, and how cybersecurity laws help women to protect themselves from the predators online.
Through time and various legal struggles, the law now agrees that the Act of Rape is not merely a crime of passion, but a crime of assertion of power. Dr. Nigam firmly mentioned that India still has a long road to cover when it comes to women safety but still small wins in the way help women by a huge magnitude. In her concluding remarks, she mentioned about the rights of rape surviours like the right to zero fir, right to compensation, trial with full dignity by fast track courts are essential for saving the women and ending violence against them.
Acknowledgements: Abhivyakti is a Research Intern at IMPRI.
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