May 25, 2010

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Women panel cautions girls against boyfriends
Bhubaneswar: With rising cases of young girls being exploited by their friends who record their intimate moments, the State Commission for Women (SCW) in Orissa has asked all college-goers to be "very careful" about their boyfriends.

"This is a serious matter and a new trend in Orissa. We will sensitise girls through a state-wide campaign," SCW Chairperson Jyoti Panigrahi told reporters.

The matter relating to circulation of pornographic CDs involving college girls came to light after a 22-year-old girl committed suicide last year in Cuttack. She found her nude pictures in a CD allegedly made by her friend who had captured some of their intimate moments.
He was later arrested by police. Three more girls fell victim to the porn CD racket in Dhenkanal district last month. In all the cases, the boys allegedly took nude pictures of the girls after winning their confidence, Panigrahi said.
Besides porn CD cases in Cuttack and Dhenkanal, a similar incident came to light in Balangir district also. One of the girls in Dhenkanal recently attempted to commit suicide after finding her nude pictures in a CD available in the local market, she said.

Times of India
Wives gain courage in fight against abuse
More Women Are Daring To File

Police Complaints About Cruelty And Threats To Their Life Due To Dowry Harassment

Mumbai: It appears the long and silently suffering Indian woman is finally taking the first steps to fight for herself.Undettered by what social activists term as laborious procedures at police stations,Maharashtras women are increasingly taking their dowry-demanding husbands to the police.

From 2006 to 2008,more than 30% more women from Maharashtra complained to the police about their husbands attempts to murder them for dowry.While 168 complaints were made in 2006,140 were made in 2008.

Separately,as against the 6,738 women who went to police stations in 2006 to complain about cruelty by husbands and relatives,14% more women did so in 2008.
According to the state economic survey,an increasing number of cases are being filed under the anti-Dowry Act and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act.Since 2006,around 24,044 cases have been filed for dowry harassment and 2,731 cases under the PWDV Act.The majority of cases registered under the anti-Dowry Act relate to harassment by husband and relatives.

Activists see the trend as an assertion of rights by women and an effort to seek timely help.Violence in society is increasing,especially violence against women.The declining sex ratio shows the devaluation and commodification of women.But there is also increasing awareness and women are coming forward to seek help, said Sonia Gill of the All India Democratic Womens Association.

In a country where women have traditionally suffered silently rather than tarnish the family honour and cause suffering to their children,it is noteworthy that a majority of women who file complaints come from humble educational backgrounds,said Gill.

Womens organisations across the country maintain that it is very difficult for an ordinary woman to access the police station and courts.It has been our experience that the police do not accept complaints by a woman without mediation, said Gill.This means an NGO representative or a social worker should accompany the woman to the police station when she files a complaint.Moreover,the police do not register an FIR under Indian Penal Code 498-A (cruelty by husband or relatives) unless there is a pattern established by a number of preceding non-cognisable complaints filed by the woman.This is the standard operating procedure followed by the police in all cases of dowry harassment.

The police do not take domestic violence seriously and prefer to give the man a dressing down and send the couple back.So it is heartening that despite the difficulties,women a re s e e k i n g help to get out of violent situations, said Gill.
Even filing a case under the PWDV Act is an onerous task as there are not enough Protection Officers (PO) appointed.The POs,who hold administrative charge as well,are overburdened and do not have time for the women, added Gill.

Lawyer Vivekanand Gupta said the PWDV Act is a beautiful piece of legislation.It needs to be widely publicised,as any womanwhether a mother or someone living incan seek help.The act provides for a PO at every police station,but the state is yet to implement it, he said.H a r i s h S a d a n i,founder member,Men Against Violence and Abuse,said there is a need to change the mindset of men.The Indian woman has become assertive and this is heartening.But the mans psyche also needs to be changed, he said.Meanwhile,the laws are only marginally misused against men,claim activists.No scientific study has been done to ascertain if these laws are being misused.If they are,it is very marginal, said Arokya Swamy,of the Indian Institute of Population Sciences.

Times of India
40% of states young brides are below 18

Mumbai: It is ironic that in Maharashtra,where social reformers such as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule introduced the concept of womens rights over a century back,a huge number of women continue to get married before they turn 18.
According to the third District Level Household and Facility Survey,carried out in 2007-08,40.4% of women aged 20 to 24 had married before the age of 18.This disturbing statistic is in the Economic Survey of Maharashtra,which was presented to the state legislature during the recently concluded budget session.

The National Family Health Survey-3 also shows that the overall percentage of early marriages in Maharashtra is around 40% and in rural areas is as high as 52%.
The reasons are cultural, said Arokya Swamy,of the Indian Institute of Population Sciences.Swamy said that even boys are married off at an early age.Often,the boys are married off at ages 21 to 23 and families seek brides who are at least four to five years younger.So you have more women getting married before the legal age of 18, he said.

A direct and negative correlation is observed between education and early marriage.In Maharashtra,the enrollment in schools for both boys and girls in the 6-to-10 age bracket is 91%.This slips to 86% for boys and 80% for girls in the 11-to-14 bracket and dives to 53% for boys and 42% for girls in the 15-to-17 bracket.Barring a few states,only one-third of the girls who enroll in school make it to standards X to XII across the country,added Swamy.
Girls are not encouraged to study because then one would have to find a groom who is better qualified and has better job prospects,which would be a difficult task.Then,the marriage expenditure and dowry expectations would also be higher, he remarked.

Leena Joshi,director of Apnalaya,an NGO that works for slum children,said a declining marriage age is a growing trend both among the middle and poorer classes.Parents fear that if their daughter gets older she may marry someone of her choice and then,if the marriage doesnt work out,they will be burdened with looking after her.Secondly,they fear for the girls physical security, said Joshi.

The only positive thing about the middle class,she said,is that the in-laws tend to support the girls decision to study further and pursue a career.

Japanese government blocks a ban on child pornography

The Japanese government has blocked legal efforts to clamp down on child pornography, with the country becoming the world's "kiddie porn superpower," according to a pressure group.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has refused to support legislation that would outlaw the possession of child pornography on the grounds that it would infringe individuals' freedom of expression – although there has been a stepped-up police campaign against people that sell sexual images of children.
The National Police Agency said it received 4,486 complaints from the public of child pornography on the internet in 2009 and a record 650 people were charged with offences related to child pornography. Campaigners believe that represents the tip of the iceberg.
The DPJ opposed the bill and instead called for the definition of child pornography to be narrowed down, while acquisition for money and multiple acquisitions would be made illegal.

"We consider child pornography to be the worst of all evils and we find it hard to understand how images of naked children tied up with ropes can be considered acceptable,"

"The only people who will be pleased at the failure to pass this legislation are paedophiles."

Times of India

Rapists pay for victims’ rehab
Goa Govt Implements SC Judgment On Sexual Abuse Compensation Scheme

Panaji: Prema (name changed) was 15 when she was sexually assaulted by a man in 2008. Two years after her ordeal, the illiterate girl from a poor family of labourers lives with her mother, afraid to venture out alone.
Shanti (name changed) is another illiterate girl from a poor labour class family who was sexually assaulted in 2001 when she was a minor. She too has been living indoors, fearful of visitors, too scared to trust anybody.

For the first time, the state has come to their rescue by sanctioning funds for their rehabilitation under the victim compensation scheme. A committee comprising the district magistrate, superintendent of police and superintendent of Aguada central jail has sanctioned Rs 50,000 to each of the victims and will place the money in a bank in fixed deposit for five years in favour of the girls.

The money for the compensation will come from the wages of the girls’ attackers. Prema’s attacker Mahesh Kagi is at present serving a sentence of 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment in Central jail, Aguada, while Shanti’s rapist Siddappa Jamuni is undergoing seven years’ RI.

The victim compensation scheme is the result of a landmark Supreme Court judgment of 1998 wherein the apex court directed that wages earned by the prisoners be deducted and paid as compensation to deserving victims of the crime through a common fund to be created for the purpose. The Goa committee has taken the help of the NGO, Prison Ministry under Sister Jane, to place the two girls at a welfare home where they will be educated and receive vocational training.

North Goa district magistrate Mihir Vardhan said, “The interest accruing on a quarterly basis will be used for their education and other expenditure. After five years, on becoming majors, the girls may take a decision about how to use the money. The committee will continue to monitor the progress of the two victims and if necessary, may think of further ways of providing support.’’
It is in compliance with this SC directive that the Goa (prisoners’ victim or his family of offence) Compensation Rules, 2005 came into existence.

Hindustan Times

What are condoms, pills?

If you believe that today’s youngsters are well-informed and don’t need sex education, consider this: More than 40 per cent of unmarried women (age 15 to 24) in Maharashtra don’t know about condoms and 72 per cent are clueless about emergency contraceptive pills, a survey has found.
On an average, 30 per cent of unmarried Indian women don’t know about condoms, the survey revealed.

While the lack of awareness may not have been a concern two decades ago, it spells trouble considering past studies have established that Indians are becoming sexually active at a younger age. The survey — the third District Level Household Survey (DLHS) — was commissioned by the Union Health Ministry to assess the current state of reproductive, maternal and child health across the country.

In Maharashtra, more than 37,600 households were surveyed between May and October 2008. A detailed report will be published soon.
Researchers found that while more than 75 per cent of women (married and unmarried) in the state knew about HIV/AIDS, nearly 73 per cent women had not even heard of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Mumbai women were as ignorant — 70 per cent of them had not heard of STIs and barely 37 per cent knew that consistent use of condoms could protect one against HIV.
Worse, 18.7 per cent of married women in the state had symptoms of the infections. And, awareness levels were higher at the time of the second DLHS in 2002-4 when only 62.5 per cent women had not heard of STIs.

“The findings show that government programmes have succeeded in creating awareness about HIV/AIDS but not about other risks of irresponsible sexual behaviour,” said Dr Balram Paswan from the International Institute for Population Sciences, which conducted the survey.

Times of India
SEXUAL ASSAULT laws are archaic : Lawyer

Amendments A Must To Protect Women From Range Of Abuse,Says Activist

Mumbai: The draft bill for amendments to laws on rape and sexual assault mainly replaces the term rape with sexual assault in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).This means that the current penalty for rapeseven yearswould apply to a broader category of sexual offences.
The Union home ministry had invited comments from the general public on the draft bill till May 15.

Bringing sexual assault and rape under a single umbrella,the draft bill describes sexual assault as an act in which a man penetrates the vagina,anus,urethra or mouth of a woman with any part of his body or any object manipulated by him.The draft bill excludes penetrations by objects carried out for hygienic or medical reasons.

Lawyer and activist Flavia Agnes told TOI that such changes are needed because current sexual assault laws are archaic.She said several forms of sexual assault go unpunished.They will essentially help the police to act against those crimes in which a woman may not have been raped,but was subjected to sexual assault nevertheless, she said.

However,reactions from men sent to the home ministry have ranged from apprehensions that such laws could be used to extort money to outright panic that the doors would be thrown open for false cases that destroy reputations.

Writing to the Union home ministry,a group going by the name All India Forgotten Womens Association (AIFWA) said that even under current laws there were several cases in which successful businessmen,fashion designers,film producers,publishers,and many other simple,honest,decent men were among those who were threatened and falsely charged with rape. AIFWA said that the new law would make matters worse as it would not distinguish between violent rape and molestation.

Rajesh Kumar,a Delhi-based lawyer and mens rights activist,posted a copy of the bill for discussion on the internet and said it had elements which made it patently anti-men.Kumar worried that the nuances of the law could be used to file false cases against men even if a sexual relationship was consensual. He also said that the law was gender discriminatory as it recognised only sexual assault of women by men and not the other way around.

If the age of consent is raised,then any sexual act with a woman under 18 years of age would also be automatically regarded as a sexual assault,irrespective of whether she gave her consent or not.

Mumbai-based criminal lawyer Mubin Solkar told TOI, The proposed definition of sexual assault is too vague and thus open to misuse. For instance,even a man putting his tongue in a woman’s mouth could attract seven years in jail.

AIFWA,which sent a letter dated April 30 to the ministry, and later posted the contents of the letter on the internet, said that if the government enacts such a law it should also enact stringent clauses to punish women who file false cases. Accused men are subjected to humiliation, mental harassment and the trauma of lengthy trials before they are pronounced not guilty, AIFWA said. It demanded that standards of proof be made more stringent before the police file sexual assault cases.

The new offence of sexual assault would also be non-bailable,which means a man would face arrest the moment a case is lodged by the police. He would then have to approach a court for bail and could spend days in jail before his plea is taken up. Presently,sexual assault cases are bailable when dealt with under molestation laws.

Legally Speaking

Existing law |

The crime specified in Section 375 of the IPC is for rape,which is forced penetrative sexual intercourse between a man and woman

Draft bill |

The crime specified in section 375 is for sexual assault,in which a man penetrates the mouth,vagina,anus or urethra of a woman with any part of his body,or with an object (except for hygienic or medical purposes)

Existing |

Jail for rape is 7 years to life.Jail for sexual assault can be up to 2 years

Draft |
Jail for rape and sexual assault would be 7 years to life.Crimes by those in authority,like policeman,would get 10 years to life

Existing |

Age of consent 16

Draft |
Age of consent 18

No change | Certain aspects of the law wont change. For example,the factors that make a sexual act criminal.This includes an act done against a womans will,by putting in her the fear of death,while she is intoxicated and so on

Broad law needed

The current rape laws are archaic and amendments are a must.There are forms of penetrative sexual assaultlike when a man uses his fingers or an objectwhich go unpunished

Precise definitions needed

A more precise definition in the law would be better so that actual cases of sexual assault are punished and chances of harassment of innocent people are reduced

Changes would also help fight child sexual abuse

Amendments to the rape and sexual assault laws would not just help in cases involving adults,but also in cases involving the sexual abuse of children,say activists.
The weakness of the existing sexual assault laws were exposed most severely in cases involving child sexual abuse,where minors were sexually abused by adults who stopped just short of raping them.The new definition could change all that, said Flavia Agnes,an advocate and womens rights activist.

Broadening the law would help to fight evils like child sexual abuse, Agnes said.The proposal to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18 would also bring more child sexual abuse cases under the ambit of the law.In such instances,even if a girl below 18 has given her consent,the man can be prosecuted for sexual assault.

The amendments,contained in the draft bill prepared by a highpowered committee set up by the Union government,could forever change the manner in which the courts and police deal with cases of sexual assault.

The current definition of rape,as given under the Indian Penal Code (IPC),has often been criticised as being too weak and not in keeping with the times.Thus,the 19thcentury law looks at only forced sexual intercourse between a man and a woman as a crime.Other forms of predatory sexual assault,remained unaddressed or the culprits got away lightly by arguing that it was just molestation.

If the proposed amendments to the law are passed by Parliament,then experts say rape laws in India would be up-to-date.Thus,even in a situation where a man forces an object such as a pen into the mouth of a woman,he could suffer a harsh jail term.This is something that we have been demanding since the 1980s, Agnes said.

It has also been proposed that complaints by women be recorded as far as possible by women police officers.This is an attempt to sensitise the process of lodging FIRs by victims of sexual abuse,who often find it difficult to narrate their plight to a man.

There are,however,certain problems being pointed out in the proposed amendments.The changes are not gender neutral,defining sexual assault only as a crime by a man against a woman.Mens organisations have demanded that provisions of the law take care of those situations where a man is a victim of sexual abuse and harassment.

Times of India
Age of consent anomaly prompted rape law rejig

New Delhi: An illiterate,poor fathers petition in the Delhi high court has forced the Union government to agree to bring wide-ranging reforms in rape laws that will treat sex with any women less than 18 years of age as rape.

Mahadev,whose daughter was allegedly kidnapped and forcibly married only to become a pregnant underaged teen,had in his petition filed two years ago exposed the conflicting provisions in the IPC and the Prevention of Child Marriage Act that led to serious anomalies.Over two years,a special bench grappled with Mahadevs arguments made through his lawyer Arvind Jain and questioned the Centre,demanding to know why there were conflicting provisions in law that in effect encouraged child marriages.

The HC had also roped in bodies like the Law Commission and Womens Commission to brainstorm and find a solution.All this while Mahadevs pregnant daughter continued to languish in Nari Niketan because her husband was behind bars and the custody couldnt be given to the father.

Left with little room to manoeuvre,the government decided to amend the IPC and the CrPC to remove discrepancies that allow different penal yardsticks for age of consent (16),marriageable age (18) and exception to cohabit with wife (12-16 years).A draft bill submitted before the special bench on Friday by the government promises to keep 18 years as the uniform age for marriage and consent,abolishing all exceptions.In other words,sex with a girl less than 18 years will amount to rape and no discount can be given to a male who has a minor wife.Currently,marital rape of a minor has lesser punishment.

The draft bill also does away with an exception under section 198 of the CrPC that prohibited a court from taking cognizance of a rape complaint by a minor wife if lodged one year after the incident.
In his petition,Mahadev had urged the HC to strike down the sub-sections of Section 375 and 376,which do not consider rape of a woman by her husband as a crime.He had also challenged Section 6 (C) of the Hindu Minority and Guardian Act and Section 198(6) of the CrPC stating they were unconstitutional and in violation of his and his daughters fundamental rights.


The IPC and the CrPC allow different penal yardsticks for age of consent (16),marriageable age (18) and exception to cohabit with wife (12-16 years)

How the anomaly came to light
Mahadev,whose daughter was allegedly kidnapped and forcibly married only to become a pregnant teen,had in his petition before the Delhi high court filed two years ago exposed the conflicting provisions in the IPC and the Prevention of Child Marriage Act.A special bench took up the issue and asked the Centre why there were conflicting provisions in laws that,in turn,encouraged child marriages

Changes in the draft bill

A draft bill submitted before the special bench on Friday by the govt promises to keep 18 years as the uniform age for marriage and consent,abolishing all exceptions.In other words,sex with a girl less than 18 years will amount to rape and no discount can be given to a male who has a minor wife.Currently,marital rape of a minor has lesser punishment

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