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Feb 06, 2013 at 01:57pm IST

Government should ensure that we have a Verma Ordinance rather than a Zero Ordinance: Binalakshmi Nepram

Is exclusion of the marital rape clause from the govt ordinance acceptable? Civil rights activist Binalakshmi Nepram joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. Is exclusion of the marital rape clause from the govt ordinance acceptable? Asked by: Mary

Government should ensure that we have a Verma Ordinance rather than a Zero Ordinance: Binalakshmi Nepram

Is exclusion of the marital rape clause from the govt ordinance acceptable?

A. Women's groups have demanded the inclusion of 'marital rape' in recommendations to Justice Verma committee and hence unacceptable that it has been excluded in Govt ordinance. Marital rape should be treated as an offense including what many say "forced sex in a period of separation".

Q. Why just marital rape? Even the AFSPA should also be taken into consideration...looking at plight of females being harassed and raped in the NE India. Hardly any army men gets punished. Asked by: Jayanto

A. While discussing issue of rape in India, one of important points we, women groups from Northeast India raised was the plea to include issue of sexual violence happening in conflict zones of India, areas where AFSPA are imposed. Rape committed by anyone in country - including men in uniform as well as non-state armed groups should also be taken into account.

Q. Don't you think that this law can be abused by women also to get out of marriage?. women having extra marital affairs can use this law to get the husband in jail. because now a days the law is heavily in favour of girls. how do you prove marital rape?. is it just girls word? Asked by: anand

A. Many women in India do face experience of sexual violence in marriage and this issue was also taken up by Justice Verma Committee to safeguard this concern. In an equal, happy marriage, why would a wife want to file a case against the husband. The reasoning to ensure that support is there for women who are violated within a marriage.

Q. Is govt's rape ordinance betrayal of the spirit of the Verma committee report? Asked by: Priya

A. The ordinance on sexual assault cleared by Cabinet and signed into law by the President of India on a Sunday is seen by women's groups as a betrayal of the Justice Verma report as many of the important recommendations suggested such as rape of women in armed conflict situations, marital rape and issues of police reforms are out of the ambit. In a country where woman is raped every 22 minutes, where several protests have happened, it should have been more comprehensive that a proper legislation happens and not one which treats sexual violence as a "emergency".

Q. Does the Indian society still not recognise the sexual rights of wives? Asked by: smriti

A. No, it is not unfortunately. We still live in a society where women are treated as "property,where we are constantly told to "adjust" to husbands/family one is married into. We still have a long way to go.

Q. The ordinance remains silent on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Your views. Asked by: Tiger

A. The discussion on Justice Verma report, ordinance and the AFSPA boils down to one basic point, which is our demand that as India grapples the issue of rape, it is important that the concerns of sexual violence in conflict areas of India are also given due consideration. All we are saying is we seek accountability from anyone who commits act of rape, including men in uniform. In excluding this from ordinance signed by President of India on Sunday, 3 Feb, the govt has failed to take care of concerns of 45 million Indians living in Northeast of India and we strongly condemn this.

Q. Should Juvenile Justice law be changed? Asked by: Farhan

A. This is for judicial experts to debate.

Q. Do we need to comprehensively change India's rape laws? Asked by: yamini

A. Yes, India need to comprehensively change rape laws and we have a great blue print in Justice Verma Committee which was not taken into consideration by the Cabinet and the Ordinance signed by President of India on sunday 3 February 2013.

Q. These laws are really required most times by women who are suffering..but a lot of times misused by women who know the loopholes..if men are put in jail without an offense being proven...then isn't a deterrent punishment the least requirement? Asked by: Satish

A. We are living in times where our concerns are how do we as a nation safeguard our women and hence the whole issue of marital rape recommendation in Justice Verma report too. Women have too much to lose if they levy false accusations of sexual assault against their husbands. The argument of "false cases" against husbands is more ideological rather than sociological

Q. Why is it not acceptable? Such provisions has the danger of being misused like the domestic violence act. In case these provisions are made then deterrent punishment should be there for false complaints as well. Asked by: Kumara prasad.

A. To respond to your question, I am reminded of what Pratiksha Baxi who teaches at law and governance, JNU wrote, "For whom is marital rape controversial? Surely it is not controversial for women who experience sexual violence in marriage" Women in fact suffer if they levy false accusations of sexual assault against their husbands. Records show that even mothers who file charges against husbands who rape daughter are treated badly in our courts, police stations and families for being bad wives, breaking up the family and threatening social norms. As I said the recommendations women groups suggested was built after years/decades/centuries of suffering.All we are asking is for our equal rights to live with joy and dignity.

Q. Where should the fight against rape begin? With laws, with the police, or with ourselves? Asked by: nony

A. We envisage three pronged approach to prevent/address issue of rape in India - prevention, law/order and relief and rehabilitation. It starts in our minds and goes all way to the society, state and nation. Change has to be from every corner now as upsurge of protests show.

Q. In majority of our religion, wife is considered as sexual commodity. There is majorly no voice which stand by our side. We have only hope from judicial system to make marital rape law. Don't you think this will give better life to wives like me, allowing me to be productive to nation in more than one manner? Asked by: ameena

A. Absolutely ! As I mentioned the 16 December 2012 Gang rape in bus has woken us up to take actions to ensure that we,women in India feel safe and protected in our homes, streets,society and nation. All the suggestions submitted and noted in Justice Verma Committee was to ensure this equality guaranteed under Constitution.

Q. I believe the heart of the problem lies in implementation of existing laws. Why don't we ask/push/demand for better implementation of existing laws rather than having new laws which may not be implemented? (for ex: FIR registration is still a tedious process) Asked by: Saurabh Nanda

A. Agree with you that implementation is a must. But first let the Government of India ensure that we have a Verma Ordinance rather than the Zero Ordinance that we are thrusted with at the moment. Once we work towards ensuring a holistic Ordinance to be turned into law someday, we need to stay vigilant to ensure that implementation process is done. For this women's groups, other civil society groups, media- all have to stay alert, committed.

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