PM writes to justice Verma, says will act upon his proposals

In the aftermath of the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi, the panel was set up to recommend proposals on how to tackle atrocities against women.

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today in a letter thanked the Verma panel for outlining recommendations on how to tackle gender violence.

In the aftermath of the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi, the panel was set up to recommend proposals on how to tackle atrocities against women.

In the letter thanking Justice (Retd) JS Verma, Justice Leila Seth and Gopal Subramanian, Manmohan Singh said: "I am writing to thank you, Justice (Smt.) Leila Seth and Shri Gopal Subramanian for your labour of love in completing the work of the Committee our government had constituted to recommend amendments in Law to be able to deal effectively with cases of sexual assault of extreme nature against women.

That the Committee submitted its report within a short period of 30 days is testimony to your commitment and concern for the public good. On behalf of our government, I assure you that we will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the Committee."

Key proposals made by the Verma panel

1. MAKE VOYEURISM, STALKING AND INTENTIONAL TOUCHING AN OFFENCE

- Make voyeurism an offence punishable by a maximum jail term of three years - Make stalking an offence punishable by a maximum jail term of three years - Intentional touching, using obscene language or gestures should be treated as a sexual assault offence

2. AMEND RAPE LAWS

- Rape of a minor should carry a minimum jail term of 10 years - Gang rape should be defined in the Indian Penal Code and be punishable by at least 20 years imprisonment - Death caused by rape should carry a minimum penalty of 20 years in jail - Make marital rape a criminal offence

3. REVIEW SECURITY LAWS IN CONFLICT ZONES

- Due to the number of reports of sexual offences committed by the armed forces in India's conflict areas such as Kashmir and the North East, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) - a controversial law that gives sweeping powers to and often confers immunity on security forces - must be reviewed - Security forces must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law rather than under army law - Special commissioners for women's security must be deployed in all areas of conflict. Such commissioners will have powers to monitor and take action in all cases of sexual violence against women by armed personnel - Introduce "Breach of command responsibility" - making a senior officer of security forces or police liable to a jail term of at least seven years if his/her subordinate commits rape

4. MONITOR ILLEGAL, PATRIARCHAL VILLAGE COUNCILS

- Put in place measures to monitor illegal village councils known as "Khap Panchayats" that sanction so-called "honour killings" and impose oppressive diktats such as banning girls and women from using mobile phones, wearing western clothes or venturing out unaccompanied

5. REVIEW MEDICAL EXAMINATION OF RAPE VICTIMS

- Put in place medico-legal guidelines on how to perform a medical examination of a victim of sexual assault - Scrap the so-called "two-finger" test - an outdated practice that examines the laxity of the vagina to determine whether the victim is "habituated to sex"

6. POLICE REFORMS

- Institute a Police Complaints Authority at district level to look into complaints against police officers who do not register complaints of gender crimes. Police who fail to register complaints or abort an investigation should be punished. This will provide more police accountability, said the commission - All police stations should have CCTV to ensure proper procedures are being followed in handling, recording and filing complaints - Provide appropriate technical equipment and training to police to ensure the highest standards of investigation of forensic evidence for sexual assault crimes - Separate police investigating gender crimes from law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the public - Increase the number of female police on patrol and on duty in police stations so that women feel comfortable filing sexual assault complaints

7. ELECTORAL REFORMS

- Lawmakers who have been charged in a court of law with serious offences such as sexual offences or dowry crimes should be disqualified from contesting elections - Sitting parliamentarians with criminal cases against them, including those of rape and other types of sexual assault, should voluntarily vacate their seats - There should be a code of conduct for political parties, instituting transparency in receiving donations and declaring whether parties had sanctioned people to run for elections who have criminal records

8. GENDER SENSITISATION THROUGH EDUCATION

- The formal curriculum in Indian schools must be drastically revamped and sex education must be made an integral part of the curriculum

9. BILL OF RIGHTS

- India should institute a "Bill of Rights" for women, along the lines of similar bills in South Africa and New Zealand

- The bill would set out the rights guaranteed to women, which would include the right to life, security, bodily integrity, democratic and civil rights and equality

10. HUMAN TRAFFICKING

- Define the offence of trafficking in the Indian Penal Code - Trafficking should be punishable with a jail term of no less than seven years and may extend to life imprisonment - Employing a trafficked person, for example as a domestic servant, should carry a jail term of no less than three years.

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