Closure for Nirbhaya but is justice delayed, justice denied?
Over seven years have passed since Jyoti Singh lost her life after a horrific gang rape on a bus in Delhi. Finally, it seems there will be closure with the strictest punishment under Indian law accorded to four of the perpetrators. A Delhi Court has issued a death warrant against four convicts and their hanging will take place on January 22 at 7 am.
Whilst I am against the death penalty and believe India should do away with it, it seems appropriate that the four accused who were adults at the time of the incident, are meted out with the strictest punishment in the land. But it is shocking that it took seven years for such a judgement and for final closure.
Justice delayed is surely justice denied.
This was a case that grabbed media headlines in India and all over the world. People were out on the streets protesting the gangrape for weeks. With inputs from the Justice Verma Committee many amendments were introduced as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2018 redefining the ambit of sexual offences, providing for effective and speedy investigation and trial. Yet it took the justice system seven long years to reach a final decision. Imagine what it would take anyone else in a similar situation with less publicity!
Our procedures and policies need serious introspection to better serve justice.
- Fast track courts are the need of the hour. We cannot have survivors and their families relive the trauma over and over again as they wait for justice. Rape, sexual assault and murder are heinous crimes and have a long-lasting impact of physical, emotional and mental health. The justice system must be quick to respond and help them find closure.
- One-stop crisis centres deemed to be operationalised. Apparently 234 One Stop Crisis Centres are up and running in various cities to provide for a range of services for violence affected women including police facilitation, legal counselling, psycho-social counselling, medical aid and temporary shelter in an integrated manner under one roof. But try doing a google search for locations and you will find nothing. If these are meant to be of service to the common woman, how is she going to find these safe havens? They need to be better advertised, and further, a proper audit needs to be done at regular intervals to ensure they deliver the quality services as promised.
- The Nirbhaya fund is still lying largely un-utilised. This was set up in 2013 by the Union Budget to support initiatives towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India. Of the sanctioned funds, almost 90% are yet to be used and this is a tragedy. CCTV cameras continue to be the favoured solution to try to deter attacks and identify perpetrators, but it cannot be the only solution for women’s safety.
- Under-reporting of crime and lack of data. Most women and girls continue to be reluctant to report their experiences officially to the police. Due to the socio-cultural taboos associated with such incidents, many women and girls are reluctant to speak up at all, and in many cases are stopped from reporting officially by their own families lest they bring dishonour to themselves and their families. Therefore, the official statistics do not reflect the true nature and size of the problem further leading to ineffective policies and investment.
- Education on gender sensitivity for all stakeholders. I believe that everyone needs to have a gender sensitive lens when designing policies and executing them. This begins with education from the earliest years where children are taught respect, consent, responsibility and empathy. Let’s not forget that one of the most violent of the gang that raped Nirbhaya was a juvenile who was short of his 18th birthday by a few months and he is out free without having gone through a restorative justice and rehabilitation programme.
With intention and investment, we can make an effort in solving the problem of violence against women and girls. In the meantime, we welcome this decision and hope that this verdict will be a deterrent for potential perpetrators.
Elsamarie DSilva is the founder of Safecity and a regular contributor to SheThePeople