India rape laws: Commission makes suggestions for reform


Indian members of NGO 'Aastha' hold placards as they march during a protest in Mumbai on December 27, 2012, for better safety for women following the rape of a student in the Indian capital. Protests across India over the last week against sex crimes have denounced the police and government, with the largest in New Delhi at the weekend prompting officers to cordon off areas around government buildings. One policeman was killed and more than 100 people injured in the violence.



A panel constructed to suggest reforms to India's rape laws has submitted its recommendations, calling for faster trials and more women judges.

The three-member committee, headed by Justice J. S. Verma, was formed after an international outcry over the gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi. The victim was brutally raped and assaulted on a bus on Dec. 16. She died after being transferred to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

The victim's rape and subsequent death prompted widespread anger and outrage throughout India, and Justice Verna's committee was formed to report on the state of women's safety in the country.

GlobalPost Senior Correspondent in New Delhi Jason Overdorf said it was unlikely that Judge Verma's recommendations would achieve much in the way of helping women or reforming the country's justice system.

"India's problem has never been bad policies or weak laws. Its problem is poor implementation, which can be blamed on incompetent or unwilling personnel. And that will take more than a committee and a few recommendations to fix," Overdorf said.

According to a New York Times article published today, in India, the police often spend more time trying to get rapist and victim to reconcile instead of investigating the facts. Because pay for police officials is so low and opportunities for advancement are so rare, police officers are vulnerable to bribes to support their families.

The commission's report did indict the police force for its poor handling of sexual assaults against women, calling for more accountability.

Worse, in many instances the victim of rape in India is forced to marry her attacker, further discouraging police action. In fact, of the 600 rapes reported in Delhi last year, only one person was convicted, the New York Times reported. 

According to the BBC the report also urged better implementation of laws, and recommended a more serious look at marital rapes and domestic violence.

According to India Today, the committee received tremendous response from citizens in India and abroad for how to reform rape laws.

"What is needed to enforce laws is the sensitivity on the part of those who implement it," he told a press conference after submitting the report to the home ministry in Delhi.

He, along with the other justices on the panel, explained that there was institutional bias against women, BBC news reported.

"The state's role is not just punishing criminals but also to prevent crimes against women," Verma said.

The trial for five of the men accused in the medical student's rape has been moved to a fast-track court and may be moved outside Delhi due to prevent any possible bias.