After Delhi Rape, Justice Verma Committee Recognised Systematic Sexual Violence By The Army

Kavita Krishnan

Justice Verma Committee Recognised Systematic Sexual Violence By Army Against Women In Kashmir, NE, Chhattisgarh, Other Conflict Zones

It’s atrocious that a case has been filed against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and Professor Nivedita Menon accusing them of making anti national comments on the Indian Army. In Kanhaiya’s specific case it is claimed that by saying there are instances of rapes of Kashmiri women by the Army, amounts to a violation of his bail conditions to refrain from anti national activity.

Verma Commitee Report AFSPA
Verma Committee recognised that such violence by Army against women in conflict areas is a regular, systematic affair, not merely a few isolated instances as is being claimed.

Well, let us remind everyone that thousands of us spoke of precisely those rapes in the December 2012 anti rape movement. In fact, women’s groups that deposed about such rapes in front of the Verma Committee, led to that Committee making very strong recommendations to protect women from violence by armed forces in conflict areas. These recommendations include regular monitoring of conflict areas by specially appointed Commissioners to check on the safety and well being of women, especially women in Army or police custody. This recommendation means that the Verma Committee recognised that such violence by Army against women in conflict areas is a regular, systematic affair, not merely a few isolated instances as is being claimed. The Verma Committee also said that each such case must be dealt with under ordinary criminal law not by court martial alone – AND that the AFSPA must be reviewed to ensure it’s not used as a shield for rapes by men in uniform.

Do read the Verma Committee chapter on the subject below. (The full report can be accessed here)

Offences against women in border areas / conflict zones

We now address a very important, yet often neglected area concerning sexual violence against women – that of legal protections for m women in conflict areas. Our views on this subject are informed by the plight of a large number of restore confidence in the administration in such areas leading to mainstreaming.

12. To this end, we make the following recommendations for immediate implementation:

a) Sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law;

b) Special care must also be taken to ensure the safety of women who are complainants and witnesses in cases of sexual assault by armed personnel;

c) There should be special commissioners – who are either judicially or legislatively appointed – for women’s safety and security in all areas of conflict in the country. These commissioners must be chosen from those who have experience with women’s issues, preferably in conflict areas. In addition, such commissioners must be vested with adequate powers to monitor and initiate action for redress and criminal prosecution in all cases of sexual violence against women by armed personnel;

d) Care must be taken to ensure the safety and security of women detainees in police stations, and women at army or paramilitary check points, and this should be a subject under the regular monitoring of the special commissioners mentioned earlier; women from areas in Kashmir, the North-East, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh who were heard at length in the course of preparing our report. We are indeed deeply concerned at the growing distrust of the State and its efforts to designate these regions as ‘areas of conflict’ even when civil society is available to engage and inform the lot of the poor. We are convinced that such an attitude on the part of the State only encourages the alienation of our fellow citizens.

11. At the outset, we notice that impunity for systematic or isolated sexual violence in the process of Internal Security duties is being legitimized by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is in force in large parts of our country. It must be recognized that women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is afforded to citizens in any other part of our country. India has signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance 106, which has to be honoured. We therefore believe that strong measures to ensure such security and dignity willgo a long way not only to provide women in conflict areas their rightful entitlements, but also to

e) The general law relating to detention of women during specified hours of the day must be strictly followed;
f) Training and monitoring of armed personnel must be reoriented to include and emphasize strict observance by the armed personnel of all orders issued in this behalf;
g) There is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA and AFSPA-like legal protocols in internal conflict areas as soon as possible. This is necessary for determining the propriety of resorting to this legislation in the area(s) concerned; and
h) Jurisdictional issues must be resolved immediately and simple procedural protocols put in place to avoid situations where police refuse or refrain from registering cases against paramilitary personnel.

Kavita Krishnan is the Secretary of the All India Progressive Womens’ Association (AIPWA)

 

 

 

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