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Indian criminal justice system not victim friendly: Lawyer

Nov 26, 2013

"Provisions for penalizing complainants must be removed as they tend to discourage reporting rather than support the victim,” said Indira Jaising, India’s Additional Solicitor General.

New Delhi: Delivering the inaugural United Nations Public Lecture, Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor-General of the Supreme Court of India, urged authorities to help survivors of sexual assault to navigate the criminal justice system.

Speaking in the presence of policy makers, representatives from the diplomatic community, civil society, students and media, Jaising, the first woman to be appointed Additional Solicitor-General said, “The rates of judicial attrition continue to be high. The criminal justice system is not victim friendly and focuses on the rights of the accused alone. Much more can be done to guarantee the conviction of the accused in cases of sexual abuse. We need to ensure that the victim and her family are taken into confidence at every state of the decision-making process and in the sharing of information relating to the prosecution. We need to inspire confidence in the victim to continue with the proceedings.”

Speaking on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the public lecture by Jaising focused on progress to end violence against women. It comes almost a year after the brutal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi. “While substantive changes were made in the Sexual Assault Law in March 2013, no corresponding changes were made to procedural laws, nor were any systems or institutions put in place to assist survivors of sexual assault.” said Ms. Jaising.

Jaising also urged for greater clarity in the filing of cases of sexual harassment at the workplace in the context of The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. “Provisions for penalizing complainants must be removed as they tend to discourage reporting rather than support the victim. Similarly, the provision for conciliation of a complaint of sexual harassment must be done away with if we want to achieve zero tolerance of sexual harassment at the workplace,” she said.

Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative said, “Helping to end violence against women is a high priority for the United Nations in India.”

“The December attack was the tipping point that has brought attention to violence against women - not only in India but globally. Many progressive reforms and changes have resulted – for example the historic Justice Verma Committee, which informed the subsequent approval by Parliament of the Criminal Amendment Act 2013. But laws by themselves are not the solution - their implementation also matters, as does changing mindsets,” said Dr Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative, UN Women’s Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The UN Public Lecture commences as part of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. The UN system is partnering with governments, civil society, young people, the media and the private sector to raise public awareness, and increase political will and resources to end violence against women and girls.

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