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India: Overhaul of justice system crucial for Indian women

Graphic: National Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice K.G. Balakrishnan

NHRI Chairperson Justice K.G. Balakrishnan addressed the 58th Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Woman.


National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairperson Justice K.G. Balakrishnan has pitched for the urgent passage of the Women's Reservation Bill and an overhaul of the criminal justice system to promote and protect the rights of women, The Economic Times reported.

"For successful implementation of women-related policies, it is of critical importance that the 16th Lok Sabha urgently passes the Women's Reservation Bill to give them one-third seats in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies," Balakrishnan said, while addressing the 58th Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

He said that the conviction rate for crimes against women was low and that the criminal justice system should be overhauled as it has not been able to respond to widespread gender-based violence, such as dowry deaths, domestic violence, sexual assault and female foeticide.

Balakrishnan noted that, although data indicates that crimes against women in India have increased by 29.6 per cent between 2006 and 2010, the police appear to be insensitive to such cases due to traditional attitudes. Therefore, the police service should be made more accountable.

The NHRC Chairperson pointed out that the protection of human rights defenders, especially women, is another area of concern as they face different kinds of harassment, including unlawful detention.

There are also indications that Dalit women elected representatives face serious barriers in exercising their legal rights and performing their role as leaders within the community, he added.

Balakrishnan, a former Chief Justice of Supreme Court, also noted that India continues to have a high number of child marriages despite legal and policy measures to eliminate the practice.

He also spoke of the lack of access to proper sanitation facilities in rural India, saying that "lack of toilet facilities... increases vulnerability of girls to rape, as seen in the recent case of rape of girls in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh".

Balakrishnan said that progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 was slow and needed renewed efforts, especially in the area of maternal health.

Date: 8 July 2014

Source: PTI/Economic Times