New Delhi, 8th July, 2014
The NHRC Chairperson, Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan has said that for successful implementation of women related policies, it is of critical importance that the 16th Lok Sabha urgently passes the Women's Reservation Bill to give them one third seats in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies. He also said that conviction in crime against women is low and the criminal justice system needs to be overhauled as it has not been able to respond to the needs of widespread gender-based violence. These included dowry deaths, early marriages, domestic violence, abductions, acid attacks, sexual assault as well as female foeticide etc. He expressed these views recently while addressing the 58th Session of the NHRIs' Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva, Switzerland.
Justice Balakrishnan said that the Twelfth Plan document, on the basis of NCRB data, indicates total number of crimes against women have increased by 29.6% between 2006 and 2010. He said that police seems to be insensitive to such cases due to traditional and patriarchal mind-sets. Therefore, it should be made more accountable. The Armed Forces Special Power Act in Jammu & Kashmir and North-Eastern States confers an impunity which often leads to the violation of human rights.
Most often, in cases of sexual assault, many a times, the victims are discouraged by the community and even by the police for resorting to legal remedy. Despite long drawn out legal process, the low conviction rate is also resulting in the harassment of the victims. As per the statistics of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), the conviction rate in 2012 for rape cases was only 24 per cent and for dowry deaths, it was only 32 per cent.
During 2013, the National Human Rights Commission registered a total of 288 cases of sexual harassment of women at different places and 59 cases of sexual harassment in Government offices though the Supreme Court had laid the guidelines ensuring women's safety at workplace in the famous case of Vishakha Vs. State of Rajasthan in 1997.
Trafficking of women and girls still continues both for sexual exploitation as well as for illegal labour in spite of the Government initiative like Ujjwala Scheme. The NHRC Chairperson said that the protection of human rights defenders, especially women, is another area of concern. They face different kinds of harassment, including false implication and unlawful detention. In fact, much more needs to be done as there are indications that Dalit women elected representatives faced serious barriers in exercising their legal rights and performing their role as leaders within the community.
Justice Balakrishnan said that India also continues to have high number of child marriages despite legal and policy framework to eliminate this practice. Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, as amended in 2003, prohibits use of diagnostic technologies for detection of sex but widespread misuse of diagnostic techniques continues. Open defecation is rampant due to lack of toilet facilities in large percentage of households in many States having repercussions on health of people, especially women and children. Open defecation, especially in rural areas, also increases vulnerability of girls to rape as seen in the recent case of rape of girls in Badayun in Uttar Pradesh.
In all India Gross Enrolment Ratio, there is a gender gap both in the general and the reserved categories of boys and girls and same is the case with the overall literacy rate even though it has increased for women from 53.67% in 2001 to 65.46% in 2011 Census.
The NHRC Chairperson said that the progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 is slow and need renewed efforts, especially in the area of maternal health.