This Article is From Feb 02, 2013

Women's groups reject ordinance on rape laws, urge President not to sign it

New Delhi: Women's rights groups today rejected the union government's ordinance on rape laws, saying it had selectively accepted the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma commission.

The government yesterday brought in the ordinance to introduce stricter penalties for crimes against women, including death in extreme cases.

But it ignored many key suggestions of the Verma commission, such as criminalising marital rape, reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and trying military personnel accused of sexual offences under criminal law, and barring politicians facing such cases from contesting elections.

"We are alarmed at the complete lack of transparency shown by the government... We call upon the President not to sign such an ordinance," the groups said in a statement.

The groups were represented by human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover, Sunita Dhar of Jagori, Kavita Krishnan from the All India Progressive Women's Association and Madhu Mehra from Partners for Law and Development.

The activists said the government had ignored all recommendations of the Verma commission that could have empowered women in the fight against sexual violence. (Read: Ordinance vs Verma commission recommendations)

"An ordinance like this, implemented by stealth, serves to weaken our democracy. It betrays the trust of thousands of men and women who marched on the streets of Delhi and other cities demanding an end to impunity for sexual violence," said Vrinda Grover.

Minister of State for Home, RPN Singh, assured that the ordinance was not final. "The standing committee is going to see all the recommendations of the Verma commission. We will discuss these recommendations. The government is aware that we need stringent laws to protect women," he said.

The Verma commission, a panel of three legal experts, was appointed in the wake of fierce street protests after the gang-rape of a medical student in Delhi last month. It submitted its report in just 29 days.