Women belonging to the poor and marginalised sections of the society, especially in rural areas, are suffering from lack of access to legal remedial measures and an indifferent and sometimes hostile policing system when it comes to gender-based crimes, said former Supreme Court judge Justice P.V. Reddi.
Reddi, who was speaking at a national webinar on Constitutional Protection and Social Treatment towards Women in India, organised by the NGO Citizen's Rights Trust, said many cases of harassment and sexual offences against women, especially in rural areas, still go unreported because of fear of further violence.
“Aggravated forms of rapes such as gangrape combined with brutal violence, rape of girl child of tender years, heinous rapes of daughters by human monsters, I must say are being reported repeatedly. Those from poor and marginalised sections of the society, especially in rural areas, are facing these helplessly hoping for necessary remedial measures,” said the former chairman of the Law Commission of India.
“Things have certainly improved, yet the gap between the ideal and ground level situations persists substantially on many fronts. Inspite of the measures that are being taken, cases go unreported especially in rural areas,” Reddi said. He said police stations and centres dedicated to women are confined only to the cities.
The former apex court judge said fear of detection was likely to have a deterrent effect. “This fear can be instilled only through a dedicated policing system. The cases of harassment and sexual offences against women still go unreported though things have substantially improved. In rural areas, they suffer from fear of further violence,” he said.
Reddi said one of the reasons for the increase in crimes against women is easy accessibility of pornography as men try to satisfy their lust through violence.
The former judge called for a coordination between social groups and law enforcement agencies to check crimes against women.
Senior advocate in the Supreme Court Mahalakshmi Pavani spoke on the importance of Constitutional equality and emancipation of women in decision making. She said while women in India have been guaranteed equal rights, and the same has been emphasised by the Supreme Court in several of its judgements, there was still a long way to go. “It took us 70 years to get here. Maybe, it will take us another 20 years to have 50 per cent women in Parliament and 50 per cent women in the judiciary,” she said.
Supreme Court advocate and president CRT, Jessy Kurian said after the Nirbhaya case, it was reported that India is the most unsafe country for women, and even today, the situation was the same. “Violence against women is increasing. It shook the conscience of the nation when recently, the Hathras victim's body was burnt at midnight, denying her the right to have a decent and dignified last rite,” she said.
“Despite several laws being in place, women are not getting justice. Women should get safety and security and equal participation in decision making. There should be strict implementation of law against crimes on women,” Kurian said.
Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court, Shobha Gupta, stressed on the need for gender sensitisation of the judiciary. She said there have been several judgments that shake one's conscience. “The judges are extremely intolerant and strict when it comes to prevention of corruption or murder or even theft. But when it comes to crime against women, how is it that bail is given easily and a judge even suggests that the accused can get rakhi tied by the victim,” she said.
Speaking on the occasion, Sneha Kalita, AOR, Supreme Court and Secretary General, CRT, said women lawyers had a big role to play when it came to highlighting the issue of violence against women and helping the victims. “I would call upon all women lawyers to come forward and raise their voice on issues that concern women and assist the victims in getting justice,” she said.