Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 16 -- Outlawing gender violence

For the last day, Prajnya organized a symposium, Outlawing Gender Violence, for legal professionals and students. Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault and Violence and Domestic Violence were some of the key issues that were discussed.

The morning started off with a session on Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and gender violence. Ms. Geeta Ramaseshan gave a background about the international agreement adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. Countries that are part of the convention have committed to submit national reports on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. NGOs and women organizations send shadow reports to CEDAW on the ground realities. 

The second session focused on Indian laws relating to gender violence. The panel was composed of Ms. Vidya Chetan, Ms. K. Santhakumari and Ms. Sheila Jayaprakash. Ms. K. Santhakumari gave a history behind the crafting of the law on rape and sexual assault.  She touched on each type of assault and spoke about the drawbacks and deficiencies in the law especially in regards to marital rape. Ms. Sheila Jayaprakash talked about workplace sexual harassment. She touched upon the history that led to the Vishaka guidelines and talked about how companies should craft their sexual harassment policies. Ms. Vidya Chetan spoke about the Domestic Violence Act. 

After the presentation, participants broke out into three different groups where they got to sit with one of the lawyers and hear their expertise. The questions were varied and touched on a gamut of issues --- with regards to sexual abuse of children, what are the remedies available to victims? Can third-parties report incidents of sexual abuse of minors?; if a victim were to conceive because of a rape, what happens?; Are there women in supreme court?; What is the difference between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sexual harassment policies?; If a man is wrongfully implicated as a perpetrator, what happens?

The third session focused on gender violence laws around the world. Ms. NV Sreejaya talked about the laws in the United Kingdom especially in regards to domestic violence and whether or not they have succeeded. Mr. Daniel Lee from the U.S. Consulate gave an overview of the American law. He touched briefly on domestic violence, workplace sexual harassment, hate crimes and same-sex marriages. Mr. Philipp Oliver Gross from the EU Delegation to India spoke about the European Union (EU) and violence against women. He said the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights was working on a survey across all 27 member states to measure the frequency and severity of violence against women in EU and the first survey results will be presented in 2013. 

A big thank you to the all presenters who shared their expertise and valuable time.

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