Changing times and tides: The Verma Report
On the 24th of January, 2013, The Telegraph published the details of the report which was submitted by Justice J.S Verma, who is the former Chief Justice of India, along with help from Justice Leila Seth as well as Gopal Subramaniam.
Following the Delhi gang-rape case which lead to a nationwide uprising against this ghastly crime, the government and the judiciary were forced to re-examine some of the out-dated, and inherently patriarchal rules which were in practice in the legal and judicial system. These rules were incredibly limited in terms of the aid which the rape-victim could receive. The gruesome rape case in Delhi made the whole nation examine the incredibly unfair practice which was doled out to not just women, but sexual minorities across the country. The Verma report is a small step towards revising these rules and regulations, but it is also a comprehensive step in terms of a country which is slowly awakening in terms of its awareness of the respect and treatment which women deserve.
According to the report, the demands for death penalty as well as the demands for chemical castration would not be taken into consideration. The punishment for a rapist would be a minimum of 20 years of jail, which can then be extended to a life sentence. However, what is worrying is that the sentence would be doled out in terms of the extent of “damage” which the rapist would cause. A rape case leading to the death or any long-term injuries of the victim will lead to life sentence, but one really needs to examine the nature of rape itself, and the long-term physical and mental trauma which it leads to. How can medical protocol dictate the punishment which is given to the rapist? How is the trauma of being raped, not a long-term medical effect, and how is one to judge how great the extent of trauma is, amongst the rape-victims? However, the report suggests that the good-conduct of the rapist which imprisoned, should not allow him to roam free, which is very important.
However, there have been some very comprehensive measures which were not taken into consideration all these years. Some very important rules which were more harmful than helpful are finally being revised, such as the exemption of the rape cases within the marital bounds. Earlier, a husband forcing himself upon his wife was not considered to be rape. The man was given sexual predominance over the woman and these cases were treated as the right of the man. However, marital rape cases will be tried just like other rape cases from now onwards. Also, earlier, stalking and eve-teasing were not given as much importance, but the judicial system is finally opening their eyes up to the fact that is these crimes which eventually lead to confidence amongst the perpetrators. These practices will we looked into seriously.
The police will also be under strict orders to register every rape case otherwise, they shall be penalized severely. This is a very important part of the report, because more often than not, the police tend to forget their role as the executioners of the laws, and they start judging cases themselves. A lot of rape-cases are not registered because the police themselves made judgment calls about the victims. This will not be allowed any longer. The rules of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act will also be revised, or will not come into play in the case of crimes pertaining to rape or molestation. The police or people from the army will not be exempt if they commit such crimes.
The report also calls for the growth of education which will lean towards respect for women, and the lessening of discriminatory practices. Basically, education needs to be reformed so as to breed newer generations of people who are less patriarchal in nature.
These rules may not solve the issue of rape in itself, but it shows maturity in the understanding which it has employed in coming out with the reforms. It has proved to be more than a placatory measure for the nation, and especially, for the women. However, one wonders, how many rapes will it take for the judiciary to reform all the discriminatory practices against women in the country?