Friday, October 9, 2009

Govt. advisory: 30 steps to check crimes against women

Last month (4 September 2009), the Central Home Ministry issued an advisory to all states and Union territories, on "Measures needed to curb Crime against Women". We reproduce below the key points of this advisory, from the PIB press release.

Main Points of advisory on checking crime against women

The advisory has detailed measures that are needed to curb crime against this vulnerable section of the society. The States and UTs have also been asked to convey the status on the measures to the Centre within a month. The Government of India have been advising the State Governments from time to time regarding the steps that need to be taken to afford a greater measure of protection to the women and in particular to prevent incidence of crimes against them. Through the advisories, the State Governments were also requested to undertake a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the machinery in tackling the problem of women and to take appropriate measures aimed at increasing the responsiveness of the law and order machinery.

Some State Governments, no doubt, have taken some measures in this regard. However, the inputs regarding crime against women available with this Ministry indicate that these measures need to be strengthened further. Despite several steps being taken by the State Governments, picture still is very grim and disappointing. Complaints are still being received regarding non-registration of FIRs and unsympathetic attitude of police personnel towards rape victims and victims of violence

The National Commission for Women has been undertaking visits to various States to review the status of women and has been making available findings of their inquiry to the concerned State Governments as well as to the MHA. The reports of the inquiries conducted by the Commission in specific incidents indicate that the level of sensitiveness and care with which crime against women should be handled is not up to the desired level.

The Government of India is deeply concerned with these trends and ground situation and has re-emphasized that urgent action should be taken on the following:-

i.Vigorously enforce the existing legislation relating to Crime against Women and Children, i.e., Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 and Violence against Women (Prevention) Act, 2005, Section 67 of the IT Act, 2000, the display of lascivious photographs/films on computer through internet, etc.

ii.Government must ensure proper enforcement of law and convictions in women related crimes. Enforcement agencies should be instructed in unambiguous terms that enforcement of the rights of the weaker and vulnerable sections including women and children should not be downplayed for fear of further disturbances or retribution and adequate preparation should be made to face any such eventuality.

iii.The administration and police should play a more proactive role in detection and investigation of crime against women and ensuring that there is no under reporting.

iv.Increasing the overall representation of women in police forces. The representation of women in police at all levels should be increased through affirmative action so that they constitute about 33% of the police.

v.Sensitizing the law enforcement machinery towards crime against women by way of well structured training programmes, meetings and seminars etc., for police personnel at all levels as well as other functionaries of the criminal justice system.

vi.Government must take concrete steps to increase awareness in the administration and among the police in particular, regarding crime against women, and take steps not only to tackle such crimes but also deal sensitively with the ensuing trauma.

vii.For improving general awareness on legislations, mechanisms in place for safety and protection of women, the concerned department of the State Government must, inter-alia, take following steps:

a.Create awareness through print and electronic media;
b.Develop a community monitoring system to check cases of violence, abuse and exploitation and take necessary steps to curb the same;
c.Involving the Community at large in creating and spreading such awareness;
d.Organize legal literacy and legal awareness camps.

viii.Explore the possibility of associating NGOs working in the area of combating crime against women. Citizens groups and NGOs should be encouraged to increase awareness about gender issues in society and help bring to light violence against women and also assist the police in the investigation of crime against women. Close coordination between the police and the NGOs dealing with the interests of women may be ensured.

ix.There should be no delay whatsoever in registration of FIR in all cases of crime against women.

x.All out efforts should be made to apprehend all the accused named in the FIR immediately so as to generate confidence in the victims and their family members;

xi.Cases should be thoroughly investigated and charge sheets against the accused persons should be filed within three months from the date of occurrence, without compromising on the quality of investigation. Speedy investigation should be conducted in heinous crimes like rape. The medical examination of rape victims should be conducted without delay.

xii.Ensure proper supervisions at appropriate level of cases of crime against women from the recording of FIR to the disposal of the case by the competent court.

xiii.Help-line numbers of the crime against women cells - should be exhibited prominently in hospitals/schools/colleges premises, and in other suitable places.

xiv.Set up exclusive ‘Crime Against Women and Children’ desk in each police station and the Special Women police cells in the police stations and all women police thana as needed.

xv.Concerned departments of the State Governments could handle rape victims at all stages from filing a complaint in a police station to undergoing forensic examination and in providing all possible assistance including counseling, legal assistance and rehabilitation. Preferably these victims may be handled by women so as to provide a certain comfort level to the rape victims.

xvi.The specialized Sexual Assault Treatment Units could be developed in government hospitals having a large maternity section.

xvii.The Health department of the State Govts., should set up ‘Rape Crisis Centres’ (RCCs) and specialized ‘Sexual Assault Treatment Units’ (SATUs), at appropriate places. RCCs could act as an interface between the victims and other agencies involved.

xviii.The administration should also focus on rehabilitation of the victims and provide all required support. The police should consider empanelling professional counselors and the counseling should not be done by the police.

xix.For improving the safety conditions on road, the concerned departments of the State Government must take suitable steps to:

a.Increase the number of beat constables, especially on the sensitive roads;
b.Increase the number of police help booth/kiosks, especially in remote and lonely stretches;
c.Increase police patrolling, especially during the night;
d.Increase the number of women police officers in the mobile police vans;
e.Set-up telephone booths for easy access to police;
f.Install people friendly street lights on all roads, lonely stretches and alleys; and
g.Ensure street lights are properly and efficiently working on all roads, lonely stretches and alleys.

xx.The local police should arrange for patrolling in the affected areas and more especially in the locality of the weaker sections of the society. Periodic visits by DM & SP will create a sense of safety and security among these sections of the people.

xxi.Special steps to be taken for security of women working in night shifts of call centers.

xxii.Crime prone areas should be identified and a mechanism be put in place to monitor infractions in schools/colleges for ensuring safety and security of female students. Women police officers in adequate number fully equipped with policing infrastructure may be posted in such areas.

xxiii.Action should be taken at the State level to set up of Fast Track Courts and Family Courts.

xxiv.Dowry related cases must be adjudicated expeditiously to avoid further harassment of the women.

xxv.Appointment Dowry Prohibition Officers and notify the Rules under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

xxvi.All police stations may be advised to display the name and other details of Protection Officers of the area appointed under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

xxvii.Police personnel should be trained adequately in special laws dealing with atrocities against women. Enforcement aspect should be emphasized adequately so as to streamline it.

xxviii.Special steps may also be taken by the police in collaboration with the Health and Family Welfare Department of the State to prevent female foeticide.

xxix.Special steps should also be taken to curb the ‘Violation of Women’s Rights by so called Honour Killings, to prevent forced marriage in some northern States, and other forms of Violence’.

xxx.Ensure follow up of reports of cases of atrocities against women received from various sources, including NCW & SCW, with concerned authorities in the State Governments.

The advisories issued by MHA, inter-alia, include gender sensitization of the police personnel, adopting appropriate measures for swift and salutary punishment to public servants found guilty of custodial violence against women, minimizing delays in investigations of murder, rape and torture of women and improving its quality, setting up a ‘crime against women cell’ in districts where they do not exist, providing adequate counseling centers and shelter homes for women who have been victimized etc.

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