Geneva: Describing the Verma Committee report as a “groundbreaking basis” for action against violence against women in India, the UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay today asked 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’”.
Justice J S Verma committee, set up by Indian government to recommend measures to improve laws dealing with sexual offences, had received around 80,000 suggestions and had wrapped up its work within 29 days.
The Commitee sought comprehensive amendments to criminal laws seeking minimum 20 years imprisonment for gang rape and life term for rape and murder but refrained from prescribing death penalty.
“The report recommends a number of far-reaching changes including punishment for marital rape, domestic rape and rape in same-sex relationships,” the Indian origin Pillay said. “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”. Pillay said 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.
“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,” she said.
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, the statement said.