On December 16, 2012, a 23 years old girl was brutally raped and tortured by six men while travelling on a bus in the capital city of India. The Nation-wide protest demanded the strict action against the accused, the safety of women from the increasing crimes, violence and sexual assault. All the six accused were found guilty and among them, one of the convicted was a juvenile. The trial of the juvenile was carried out separately. The Supreme Court upholds the death penalty to the four accused and termed the incident as “rarest of rare” (Ashok Bagiriya & Bandra Sinha, 2017). In the aftermath of this infamous incident, the Justice Verma Committee was formed by an executive order of the Govt. of India to make amendments to the existing criminal laws dealing with crime against women. This three members committee consisting of Retired CJI J.S. Verma (Chairman), Retired Justice Leila Seth (Member) and Gopal Subramanium (Member) published the 631-page report, titled as “Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Laws” on January 23, 2013. The objective of the committee is to make necessary amendments to the criminal laws so as to provide the fast trial, enhance punishment for sexual assaults and make assure that the culprits got punishment for committing crimes against women.
The paper aims to examine the recommendations made by the committee on the basis of feminist ethics and normative ideas. The committee recommends several reforms in criminal laws; dealing all kinds of sexual assault, the wide range of crimes, safety issues, the effectiveness of policing and court trials. The committee also deals with the governance and which fails to provide the Constitutional provisions for the gender justice and equality in favour of women. The committee also interpreted the laws and judgements and societal system which discriminate women in the society. The report was held by many groups as a landmark moment for the feminist movement in India. The report also opens a platform to discuss the discourse of violence and rape penetrated by the state actors by consulting various NGOs, civil society, academics and various stakeholders.
Brief Summary of the Report
The report criticised the failure of the government in providing safety for women, liberating women from the suppressed social order. The report mentioned that women has endure threat to bodily integrity, lack social, economical and political empowerment, deprive of their agencies on every social and physical aspects of life. It criticise the state for unable to fulfils the constitution provision guaranteed for women. So, the report focuses more than the mere addressing of reforms in laws. It focuses on the capability issues of women, root causes in the society and failure of the state to address it substantively. Focussing on the dignity of women, the committee addressed the stages of offences to aggravated sexual assault. The report also dealt with the sex discrimination, female foeticide, honour killings, Khap Panchayat control of women’s autonomy, and malnutrition and health condition of women (Verma, J. S., Seth, L., & Subramanium, G., 2013). The committee also criticised the state for not implementing the mandates of International treaties, convention etc which emphasis on the women’s right and well being. The Report deliberately discuss the issues of rape and sexual assault, harassment at work place, child and women trafficking, medico-legal examination of the rape victims (two-finger test), inaccessible of the state mechanism like police, judiciary etc by the women, marital rape, reforms in electoral policy, police, education, issues of violence on women in the conflict areas etc. The committee made many recommendations to provide mechanism of safety and dignity of women, credible law enforcements, punishing the culprit conducting the crime, transparency of government institution, protocol for medical examination, juveniles protection etc (Shazneen Limjerwala, 2013).
So, the report focuses on understanding the centrality issues of gender in laws, legislations and practices. Various conceptual frameworks, strategies of gender development, perception from the women movement, feminist understanding of sexual violence and their views of law are incorporated in the discussion of women’s issues and recommendations of laws regarding sexual violence in the report. Various recommendations were made to changes in the laws dealing criminal and sexual assaults of women.