January 30, 2012


Times of India

Ban 2-finger test on rape victims: Panel

NEW DELHI: In a move aimed to protect victims of sexual abuse from further mental trauma, a high powered government committee has recommended abolishing the "two finger test" for determining rape or sexual assault.

Rape survivors are routinely subjected to forensic examination that include the "finger" test. Social activists have for long been demanding a ban on the "archaic and outdated" practice. They termed the test "unscientific and degrading".

In a bid to protect child victims of sexual abuse, the committee also suggests that such victims should not be made to give statements repeatedly to the police, magistrate, court etc, arguing that these procedures further heightened the trauma for victims of sexual abuse.

As children are often not able to describe the exact nature of sexual abuse, the panel said the law should allow expert witnesses like child psychologists and doctors to depose on their behalf about the abuse suffered by them.

"The Code of Criminal Procedure Code will need to be reviewed to make the procedures more women and child friendly. The two finger test should be abolished," Planning Commission's working group headed by secretary, women and child development ministry, said.

It was argued that the law should be amended to provide for immediate medical attention and counseling for victims of sexual abuse, particularly children, to deal with the trauma. The group wanted existing provisions of IPC to be reviewed with regard to the definition of 'rape' as it did not address certain crimes that have been or are being increasingly committed against women and children.

The concerns raised regarding the definition for sexual harassment (commonly known as eve-teasing) in Section 509 of the IPC and changes in language may be necessary, it said, arguing that stalking is another offence against women which is not recognized as a specific offence in the IPC. "This needs to be looked into as the victim of stalking is repeatedly and over a period of time harassed in a variety of ways," the group said.

The panel noted that according to the National Family Health Survey, one-third of women aged 15 to 49 had experienced physical violence, and approximately one in 10 had been a victim of sexual violence.

A study of data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that the number of crimes against women increased by 29.6% between 2006 and 2010. These numbers have to be viewed keeping in mind that not all crimes against women are reported and the actual numbers may give even greater cause for concern.

The group found low conviction rates more disturbing as this reflected that many of these cases were not being prosecuted properly and inadequate proof was tendered before the courts. In 2010, there were 22,171 reported cases of rape and conviction rate was mere 26.6%. Around 40,613 molestation cases were reported in which the conviction rate 29.7% and 9,961 harassment cases were reported with conviction rate of 52%.

January 22, 2012


Times of India

Government plans to make rape law gender neutral

(The government has proposed that the offence of rape be made “gender neutral” by amending the law so that sexual assault on men can also be proceeded against under the same statute.)

NEW DELHI: The government has proposed that the offence of rape be made "gender neutral" by amending the law so that sexual assault on men can also be proceeded against under the same statute. It also plans to make specific laws on stalking and acid attacks on women.
The change in the rape law is being drafted by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) as part of the criminal law (amendment) bill, 2011. The bill will replace the word `rape' with sexual assault, and also propose suitable amendments to make the law gender neutral.

The bill can prove to be path-breaking as sodomy is punishable under Section 377 of the penal code. The section was struck down by the Delhi High Court in 2009 while dealing with a petition filed by an NGO fighting for gay rights, but the court also held that non-consensual sexual acts remain an offence.

The amendments come in the light of increasing number of sexual crimes reported against women as well as men. The National Crime Records Bureau recorded an increase of 4.8% of crime against women, with 2.13 lakh cases reported in 2010.
The ministry has recommended that a new Section 326A (hurt by acid attack) and Section 326B (attempt to throw or administer acid) that deals with offenders who burn or disables a person or causes grievous hurt be made punishable with imprisonment of 10 years, extendable to life term and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh. Similarly, attempt to throw acid can attract imprisonment of five-seven years.
These amendments are likely to be widely welcomed given the incidence of women being targeted by acid attacks by persons whose advances have been rejected. Courts have often expressed anguish over the brutal and vengeful nature of the crime and called for exemplary punishment for offenders.

Fines collected shall be given to victims of acid attacks. The provision is expected to compensate the victim for mental and physical trauma as well as medical expenses. It is felt that such measures can augment state assistance.

Amendments have been proposed to IPC sections to replace the word `rape' with `sexual assault'. The bill also proposes to introduce a new Section 509B in the penal code to make stalking punishable with maximum imprisonment of seven years. Stalking will include following a woman repeatedly, contacting her through phone, mail or any other form of communication or loitering or watching the place where she works or lives.

The ministry is planning significant changes in Section 375 dealing with sexual intercourse between husband and wife. The current provision says the age of the wife should not be below 15 years. It has been recommended that this be increased to 16 years. The legal age of marriage is 18, but courts have dealt with "age of consent" in cases where a man is accused of statutory rape. The conflict arises when the girl has consented, although below marriageable age, but her relatives have filed charges of rape.

The bill also provides for higher penalties for molestation, increasing punishment from one to three years in jail and a fine of at least Rs 1,000 for ``outraging the modesty of a woman". The ministry has recommended retaining Section 377 of the IPC since the HC judgment for decriminalizing same gender sexual intercourse has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

Other provisions include stressing that evidence not take into account character and previous sexual experience of a person with the issue of consent or quality of consent. If recommendations are accepted it will mean a victim cannot be allowed to be cross-examined in case of sexual offence nor will s/he be confronted with the accused.
The changes are part of a proposal moved by the ministry of home affairs to amend the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act on provisions pertaining to sexual assault. A high-power committee that included representatives' from home, women and child development and law ministries and National Commission for Women (NCW) examined the amendments.
The draft Cabinet note was circulated to ministries for their comments in December, and put before the Union Cabinet for its approval.

TIMES VIEW The proposal to widen the definition of rape to make it gender neutral is welcome. It serves to bridge a long-felt gap in the statute books which made it difficult to deal with sexual abuse, in particular, of young boys. We also hope that the government and lawmakers will realize that this is not the only law that's out-dated. It's time for a comprehensive review of all laws to weed out those which are obsolete, update those which need to be brought in sync with the times and introduce fresh ones that changing technology and societal norms make necessary.

January 13, 2012



Rapes up in Mumbai, but there’s no word on molestation

The long arm of the law doesn’t appear to strike much fear in the hearts of criminals anymore. Numbers prove so.

As per the recent statistics of crime in the city, released by the police on Tuesday, registered rape cases rose by 27 last year as compared to the 192 in 2010.

Of the 219 rape cases registered in 2011, 139 involve minors. The accused, a majority of which were parents, relatives, friends, acquaintances neighbours, were known to 206 victims. In total, the accused were apprehended or identified in 209 cases.

What are missing from the police’s statistics, though, are the figures for molestation cases.

In 2011, 597 women were rescued from brothels in a number of raids held by the local police and the social service branch. During the rescue operations, 302 accused were arrested for trafficking of women and 131 cases lodged thereafter.

“Security is a priority but people must become responsible,” said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police, crime.

Commissioner of police Arup Patnaik assured that there will be zero tolerance to crime against women, “The security of women in the city is our top priority.”

Although the police were quiet about the cases of molestation, Patnaik said the zonal deputy commissioners of police have been asked to take each case of molestation and eve-teasing seriously. “There are special teams that have been set up in the suburbs to deal with these problems,” he added.

Times of India

2011 saw an increase of rape in Mumbai

An analysis of rape offences registered by the Mumbai Police last year has shown that in 94 % cases the perpetrators were known to the victim. There has been an increase in rape cases registered , from 192 cases in 2010 to 219 cases in 2011.

But, overall crime decreased by 4% in the city.

Senior officials said the fact that only 5% cases were committed by strangers last year showed that the city's streets were not as mean.

"Of the 219 cases of rape registered last year, six were committed by parents (mostly victim's father ) or close family members, nine by relatives, 26 by neighbours, 65 by men making false promises of marriage and 100 by known persons," joint commissioner (crime ) Himanshu Roy said. "Only 13 cases involved complete strangers."

The Amboli molestation case, where Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez were murdered when they tried to protect their female friends from harassment in October last year, drew strong reactions from across the globe. Police commissioner Arup Patnaik said the safety of women was their top priority and was taken very seriously. "A special squad to curb eve-teasing was started in the west region following the Amboli incident, and they have made hundreds of detentions," he added.

Women's rights activists pointed out that targeting young women in public places has drastically increased. "When penal action isn't taken against a criminal, it only emboldens him. Take the case of a 14-year-old from Borivli who was abducted and raped for 34 days by two men before she was rescued in mid-November last year. Two days before she was kidnapped, the girl had lodged a complaint with the police, alleging molestation by the duo. But instead of taking strict action, the police booked the two men under lighter, non-cognizable sections and let them off with a warning," said Sonya Gill of the All India Democratic Women's Organization.

Nandita Gandhi, co-director of the NGO Akshara, said, "If the population is high in a place, such as in buses, the danger of sexual harassment or violence goes up. This holds true even if the population is totally sparse." Akshara had conducted a survey among college girls, who had reported a high degree of harassment.

January 1, 2012



Penetration must for rape conviction: Bombay HC

A man can be convicted for rape only if there is penetration, the Bombay high court observed on Friday as it set aside the sentence of a 37-year-old who was charged with raping the daughter of his stepsister in May 2006.

Satish Shinde, who was arrested in December 2006, will now walk free from prison after having served five-and-a-half years of his seven-year rigorous imprisonment, handed out to him by a sessions court on November 26, 2007.

Shinde had approached the HC challenging the order of the sessions court.

The prosecution told the HC that the girl, who lives in Korphale village in Solapur, was slapped by her mother on May 2, 2006. The upset girl called up Shinde, her mother’s stepbrother, who said he would pick her up from a bus stop junction and drop her to her maternal uncle’s house in Dhorle. The prosecution alleged that Shinde raped her on the way.

Ujwal Agandsurve, Shinde’s advocate, argued that the girl’s evidence was unreliable. The medical evidence showed there was no penetration at all. Also, the chemical analyser’s report showed that no traces of semen were found on the clothes which the girl wore on that day.

Agandsurve pointed out to the court that the girl’s uncle was not examined. Also, the aunt turned hostile and did not support the prosecution before the trial court.

Acquitting Shinde, the court observed: “As such, there are serious doubts about the genuineness of the prosecution’s case. It is highly risky to rely upon the evidence of the girl in view of the other evidence brought on record


Provocative dress invites rape, says AP police chief

In a mind-your-attire-like statement, the police chief of Andhra Pradesh has attributed the increase in crime against women to the dress they wear.

Claiming that the modern women are more vulnerable to rape, AP’s director general of police V Dinesh Reddy said provocative dress of women was one of the reasons for the incidence of rape, and police have no control over that.

Reddy was responding to a set of queries raised by the media on the rise in number of rape cases in the state during 2011.

Andhra Pradesh reported 1,291 rape cases till November this year against1,228 during the corresponding period last year and 1,147 in 2009.

Reddy also referred to his experience in his own village in coastal Nellore district where, he said, women wore dresses that covered their entire body.

“Now, wealth has increased, corporate styles have seeped into the villages bringing in liquor and other cosmopolitan cultures. These modern women are more vulnerable to rapes,” he said.

According to him, the police have little role to play in the unfolding of unfortunate events when the women wear provocative dresses.

The number of rapes and murders in Andhra Pradesh rose significantly during 2011. There were about 2,522 murders reported till November 2011 as against 2,465 in 2010 and 2,381 in 2009.

While addressing both the issues together, Reddy said two major crimes were linked to social factors and the police were not to blame.

When questioned what solution he would suggest to bring down the incidence of rapes, Reddy said, “We will cross the bridge when we reach there.”

The DGP’s comments kicked up a row in the statewith women’s groups condemning the way the police chief was trying to wash his hands off.

In Delhi, Union home minister PChidambaram dismissed Reddy’s assertion, stating people were entitled to dress the way he or she feels and there can be no moral policing on choice of clothes.

“I strongly disagree with that statement. Everyone is entitled to dress the way he or she pleases as long as he or she has regards to the occasion, the place and the context. Obviously, you don’t wear a whole lot of clothes to play football or tennis and you don’t wear swimwear and go to a cocktail party,” Chidambaram said. The home minister said there cannot be any kind of moral policing and “certainly not by a DGP”.

With the comments all set to snowball, the DGP’s office swung into action by way of sending a clarification which, however, did not deny what the DGP had said.