Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 14 -- Law, gender-based violence and Indian society

Prajnya held a roundtable discussion on "Law, gender-based violence and Indian society" and the speaker was Ms. Sheila Jayaprakash,  a senior advocate in the Madras High Court. Ms. Jayaprakash started with an overview of the various Indian laws that address gender violence. She noted that while there are more laws around gender violence, the crime rate has been steadily increasing. Other forms of violence are falling but violence against women continues to rise, she noted.

Violence against women fall in two categories -- inside the home and outside the home -- and can be addressed by either civil law or criminal law. As per the Indian constitution, women are guaranteed equality but the ground reality is often quite different. "How can I access that equality when so much inequality follows me? We have to move beyond formal equality," she said.

She described her experiences in court and recounted the various interpretations judges and lawyers have applied to the law. She noted that sections of the law that are aimed at giving equality of women often does not help and protective equality has a negative impact. "If we are to bring down the crime rate against women, cases need to be time bound and there needs to be surety of punishment," she said.

This was followed by a Q&A session, where participants asked a range of questions like access to public records, laws regarding marital rape, child abuse, personal laws that govern various communities.

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