August 26, 2011


Times of India

Board to help rape victims claim damages

MUMBAI: Rape statistics keep rising each year but the conviction rate continues to remain low. Rape victims in India hardly receive any compensation unless courts direct the guilty to pay up. But eight months after the Union ministry for women and child development issued a directive to all states asking them to implement a scheme for compensation of victims of sexual assault, Maharashtra has finally constituted a district board to overlook compensation claims.

On August 24, the Mumbai collector set up a district board to deal with compensation claims and to issue guidelines to police stations regarding the manner in which claims can be made under this scheme. Majlis, a women's activist group, has been invited to be a member of this board. Others on the board are the collector, a deputy police commissioner, a representative of the State Legal Services Board and an official of the District Women and Child Development Authority.

But it may be a case of too little, too late, said activists Flavia Agnes and Nandita Shah. The issue of compensation to women victims has been pending for almost 15 years, they said. Expressing concern at the government's lack of promptness and seriousness towards a sensitive issue, activists have been demanding a law that requires the state to set up a fund for victims. To address some of the concerns, Majlis and the National Commission for Women have organized a National Consultation on 'Compensation to women victims of crime' this Sunday at the YMCA in Mumbai Central.

The consultation aims to iron out the difficulties and to explore the ways in which information about the scheme filters down to the grassroots so that survivors of rape are able to actually receive compensation.

"What is important is that the burden of making the claim is not thrust on individual victims. Information must be provided to police stations or public hospitals where a victim first goes," said Agnes. At least, interim compensation must be paid to the rape survivor.

"The second concern is to see whether the scheme can apply to victims other than rape," Agnes said. She added , "The concern is to gain clarity about the provision of Section 357A of the Criminal Procedure Code (which requires each state to formulate schemes to compensate victims of crime who suffered a loss, injury or need to be rehabilitated) and explore how women's concerns can be specifically articulated through this scheme.

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