GENEVA (25 January 2013) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today welcomed the report of the Verma Committee as a groundbreaking basis for action against violence against women in India, and urged the Government to follow through on its vision and recommendations.
“I salute Justice Verma and his Committee on producing such a thorough report so quickly, and for involving women’s groups and civil society so fully in the process,” the High Commissioner said.
“This report and its far-reaching recommendations are not only a tribute to the brave young woman who was raped and murdered five weeks ago, but to all victims of sexual violence and assault in India,” she said. “It is also a testament to the power of the young women and men of India, and the broader civil society, who have joined hands across the nation to say ‘Enough is Enough’.”
The report recommends a number of far-reaching changes including punishment for marital rape, domestic rape and rape in same-sex relationships; requiring police officers to register every case of reported rape and ensuring those who fail to do so face serious repercussions; ensuring accountability of police or armed forces personnel for sexual violence; punishing offences such as stalking and voyeurism with prison terms; changing the humiliating protocol for medical examinations experienced by rape victims; cracking down on extra-legal village councils, known as khap panchayats, which often issue edicts against women; comprehensive measures to improve sexuality education in schools and the community; and making new legal requirements and electoral reforms to ensure that people charged with criminal offences may not hold political office.
“I strongly support the fact that the report eschews the death penalty and any lowering of the age of juvenile perpetrators,” the High Commissioner said. “And that, instead, it recommends suitably heavy prison sentences ranging from seven years to life.”
“The Committee’s recommendations are grounded in a framework of rights, equality and non-discrimination, and represent a paradigm shift towards recognition of women as holders of rights, not just objects of protection,” Pillay said. “The report should serve as a beacon for many other countries struggling to respect the rights of women more comprehensively by addressing sexual violence through legislation, policies and programmes.”
The High Commissioner acknowledged some of the urgent steps already taken by the Government, including the establishment of fast-track courts, and urged all political leaders of the country to rally around the Verma report and make implementation of its recommendations an unequivocal national priority.
At the invitation of the Verma Committee, the Office of the High Commissioner made a submission and stands ready to assist in any aspect of the report’s implementation.