Women activists urge president not to sign sexual crime ordinance

New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) Some women's organisations Saturday urged the president not to sign the ordinance on criminal law amendments passed by the union cabinet to deal with sexual crimes.

"The ordinance is a complete betrayal of the people's faith. We are alarmed at the complete lack of transparency displayed by the government in proposing an ordinance as an emergency measure. We call upon the president not to sign such an ordinance," was the general opinion of woman activists at a press conference here. They also wondered why such a measure was necessary when parliament would convene for the budget session in about 20 days.

The cabinet Friday approved an ordinance for enhanced punishment in cases of crimes against women, including sexual assault, acid attacks, voyeurism and trafficking.

The women also complained that the cabinet had not paid adequate attention to the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma committee, set up to examine laws that relate with sexual crimes and any changes necessary. The committee had submitted its report last week.

"It is an absolute mockery of Justice Verma's panel's recommendations. We were alarmed to see the ordinance as it ignored many recommendations of the that committee. The government has stealthily passed this ordinance without sharing it with the public and without actually debating and discussing it. All the recommendations than can actually strike at the heart of impunity have been dropped," Kavita Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) said.

Some women said they would take to the streets in protest, once again, just as they had protested after the brutal gang-rape of the physiotherapy student gang-raped in the national capital Dec 16.

"We will be holding protest, likely from Monday at 2 p.m., but we are yet to finalise it. We would definitely continue to agitate. How can the union cabinet, in just a few hours, sit and cheery-pick what J.S Verma and his team strenuously worked on for a whole month?" asked Krishnan, adding that the government acted stealthily, passing the ordinance without sharing it with the public and without debating and discussing it," Krishnan said.

The Justice J.S. Verma panel, set up by the government last month to review laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault, submitted its report to the government last week.

The panel was set up in the wake of outrage over the gruesome gang-rape of a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist Dec 16.

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