India Insight

Anti-rape bill goes easy on first-time stalkers, but only if innocent

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Women have become increasingly worried about their safety in New Delhi after the gang rape and torture of a young woman aboard a moving bus last December. Not for nothing do people call the city India’s rape capital. Beyond the leers and the crass words that men often direct at women walking on the street, fresh fears have arisen over stalkers.

The Lok Sabha passed a bill to toughen penalties on rape and sexual assault on Tuesday, and among its penalties, it would make stalking punishable by jail time. But first-time offenders will be able to avoid being detained till investigation is complete, as the offence is bailable.

That, of course, disappointed many people. “1st time stalkers get bail, so they get out and harass, and maybe attack the woman they were stalking?,” journalist Padmaja Joshi wrote on Twitter. ‏@Neilima wrote, “1st time stalker getting bail will probably lead on a second attack. Only, it’ll be a lot worse than just stalking her.”

But what happens if someone falsely accuses someone of stalking? If the offence is non-bailable, police have the right to arrest or detain the accused stalker before they begin investigating the case, said Vijay Kumar, a lawyer who argues cases before the Supreme Court.

Making a case for tougher anti-stalking laws

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Should any well meaning law proposed in a democratic parliament be shelved because it risks being misused in some form?

Unless we go into specifics, it is hard to generalize the question, but the eighteenth-century English scholar William Blackstone made a strong argument: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

Military personnel who rape in India’s conflict zones should be prosecuted: committee

The Justice Verma Committee, set up to review India’s legislation following the brutal gang rape of a student in Delhi last month, released its recommendations on how to make the country safer for women last week.

Among the issues which the panel addressed was a “neglected area” concerning sexual violence against women in areas of conflict.

The committee recommends stripping security forces of special immunity that they enjoy in conflict areas in cases of sexual assault on women, and bringing them under the purview of ordinary criminal law.

Delhi rape case: Verma committee report dredges up old stereotypes

Like many journalists who follow Indian affairs, I have been digging through the 657 pages of the Verma committee report on rape in India and attitudes toward women in that country. You can read about its main conclusion in our wire story, namely:

India needs to implement existing laws, not introduce tougher punishment such as the death penalty, to prevent rape, a government panel set up to review legislation said on Wednesday, following a brutal gang rape that shook the nation. Panel head, justice J.S. Verma, rejected outright the idea of the death penalty for rape cases, a demand from some protesters and politicians in the days after the 23-year-old physiotherapy student was attacked on a moving bus.

There’s lots more to examine in the report, which was commissioned after the gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi aboard a moving bus. I’ll try to highlight on this blog in coming days. The committee cited plenty of case law in its report, and it came across one opinion that it said “seems to have stereotyped Indian and Western women in a somewhat unorthodox way.” That’s putting it kindly. Here is an excerpt that highlights a decidedly retrograde view toward women — particularly in the West. It’s from a 1983 Supreme Court case,  Bharvada Gohinbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat, in which a civil servant appealed his conviction of the rape of a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl.

In southern Delhi, a slum lives in fear and uncertainty

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

Raju Saini appears fidgety and nervous as he talks about his cousin. He speaks matter-of-factly, but there is a hint of caution in his voice, as if he is wary of what we might think about him and the place where he lives. Fifteen minutes into the conversation, he says what has been on his mind.

“We know what we are going through. Now even if people don’t say it out openly, they know we are from Ravidas camp, and eye us with suspicion whenever we go to work. This incident has given us a bad name,” said the 40-year-old man. Saini is tall and lanky with salt-and-pepper hair and a thin moustache, and was wearing grey thermals on the day we met in the slum.

Know your rights: staying safe in India’s rape capital

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

Despite increased media scrutiny of violence against women after the Dec. 16 gang rape case, such incidents continue to be reported in and around New Delhi — now holder of the infamous title, “India’s rape capital.”

It’s unfair to expect women to no longer step outside their homes, but it’s best to be prepared. Carry pepper spray. Take a self-defence course. Learn kickboxing or Krav Maga. Most importantly, be aware of your legal rights.

Interview: Satisfied with response from police, government: rape victim’s father

Five men accused of the rape and murder of the 23-year-old student appeared in court on Monday to hear charges against them.

Reuters’ Shashank Chouhan interviewed the rape victim’s father over telephone. Here are the excerpts:

Q: Why did you reveal your daughter’s identity to a UK newspaper?
A: When the (new) law will be made, it has to be made after the girl’s name. There is nothing wrong in giving out the name – it is not for any wrong purpose. It will not harm anyone nor should anyone object. Nothing objectionable is being said or written. That is why I gave the name.

Banning Bollywood item numbers is no solution

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi last month has made many Indians take a hard look at how they behave as a society.

What is the Bollywood film industry’s role in creating or perpetuating that behaviour, particularly the callous treatment of women at the hands of men? Some argue that the film industry’s portrayal of women is derogatory, particularly in “item numbers” — songs with sexual overtones in movies, often inserted with no relevance to the plot.

Delhi gang rape victim dies: elsewhere on the web

 The 23-year-old woman whose gang rape sparked protests and a national debate about violence against women in India died of her injuries on Saturday, prompting a security lockdown in New Delhi and an acknowledgement from the prime minister that social change is needed.

Bracing for a new wave of protests, authorities deployed thousands of policemen, closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in the heart of New Delhi, where demonstrators have converged since the attack to demand improved women’s rights. Hundreds of people staged peaceful protests at two locations on Saturday morning.

The 23-year-old medical student, severely beaten, raped and thrown out of a moving bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday for specialist treatment.   (Read the story here)