Apathetic. A failure. The official verdict on India's rape police

Former chief justice calls for stricter enforcement of sexual assault laws and women judges

Delhi

A panel set up in the aftermath of the rape and murder of an Indian student criticised the “apathy” of police and officials as it tabled a series of recommendations designed to tackle sexual assaults on women, including new laws, faster courts and female judges.

J S Verma, a former chief justice of India who headed the panel, said he had been shocked to see the country’s Home Minister patting the chief of the Delhi police on the back in the days following the crime. The very least he should have done, he said, was to have sought an apology for the police’s failure “to protect citizens”.

“Failure of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment, eroding the rule of law and not the want of knee-jerk legislation,” he added, as his panel outlined their report after receiving 80,000 suggestions.

Among the top suggestions were the strict enforcement of sexual assault laws, the appointment of women judges to oversee assault cases, the removal of immunity for soldiers accused of sexual assaults in conflict areas and an effort to make public transport safer.

The panel also recommended that all marriages should be registered in an attempt to finally put an end to the habit of women’s families paying dowries. It also asked the government to halt an invasive and unscientific vaginal test used to determine whether a woman is sexually active.

However, in contrast to the demand of the family of the student who was killed and many of those who joined protests calling on the government to take action, the panel said it did not support the introduction of the death penalty for such offences. It also opposed lowering from 18 to 16, the age at which a suspect ceases to be treated as a juvenile by the law.

“We hope the parliament will take the legislative suggestions given by the committee, and translate these into law,” said the retired chief judge. There was no immediate response from the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who had established the panel.

Last night, a number of organisations that had submitted suggestions to the panel said they believed it had included most of the major points passed to it.

“Overall, I think we are quite positive,” said Sudha Sundararaman, of the All India Democratic Women’s Association. “We found that most of the suggestions we made have been included in the recommendations, especially in extending the definition of rape and sexual assault.”

Yet there was some scepticism as to what would happen next. India is notorious as a place for holding endless commissions into various issues that then do not get taken up or else are just partly implemented.

“The whole issue is how the government will respond. Will it be taken up and legislated upon,” said Professor Ranjana Kumari, of the Centre for Social Research in Delhi, who was among more than 100 female activists who appeared before the panel.

The handing over of the panel’s recommendations to the government came as the activist group Azzaz.org launches its own report calling on the Indian government to establish a four-year education campaign against rape and sexual assault. Having collected more than 1.1 million signatures, the group said it was essential the government confronted the crime.

The 23-year-old woman was attacked after she and her male companion boarded a bus on 16 December. She suffered widespread injuries and died two weeks later. Six males – five adults and a juvenile – have been arrested. The five men, who have been charged with rape and murder and who face the death penalty, are due to return before a fast-track court today.

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court is hearing a petition to have the trial moved out of Delhi.

Morocco moves to change law on marriage

Nearly a year after Morocco was shocked by the suicide of a 16 year-old girl forced to marry her alleged rapist, the government has announced plans to change the penal code to outlaw the traditional practice.

Women’s rights activists have welcomed Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid’s announcement, but said it was only a first step in reforming the law. 

The kingdom’s penal code allows those convicted of “corruption” or “kidnapping” of a minor to go free if they marry their victim. Last March, 16-year-old Amina al-Filali poisoned herself to get out of an abusive marriage to a man she said had raped her. AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms