January 25, 2013 — Although India has laws in place that address sexual violence and gender bias, it lacks the political and bureaucratic will to enforce them and safeguard women's rights, according to a report released Wednesday by the nation's government, the New York Times reports.
The report -- which was drafted by a three-person commission in response to the deadly gang rape of a young woman last month -- offered several far-reaching recommendations for the government to address the issue. India's Home Ministry created the commission last month to recommend ways to improve laws dealing with sexual violence.
According to the Times, the report goes beyond the issue of rape and examines widespread discrimination against women, child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, sexual harassment in the workplace, societal biases against daughters and the political influence over Indian police departments.
The commission's recommendations include requiring police officers to register every reported rape case; training officers on how to investigate sex crimes; punishing related crimes like stalking; re-evaluating medical examinations that humiliate rape victims; cracking down on village councils that issue edicts against women; and making it more difficult for criminal offenders to hold public office.
"Failure of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment eroding the rule of law, and not the want of needed legislation," the commission wrote.
Former India Supreme Court Justice J.S. Verma, who led the commission, urged the government to act "swiftly" on the recommendations. He said the commissioners completed the report in 29 days to ensure it was finished before Parliament meets in February (Yardley, New York Times, 1/23).
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Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
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