Reservation, Overhaul of Justice System Crucial for Women: NHRC

New Delhi
Reservation, Overhaul of Justice System Crucial for Women: NHRC

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairperson Justice (retd) KG Balakrishnan has pitched for urgent passage of the Women's Reservation Bill and overhaul of the criminal justice system for the successful implementation of women-related policies in the country.

At a recent meet on human rights in Switzerland's Geneva, Balakrishnan also said that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states confers an impunity which often leads to violation of human rights.

"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," he said while addressing the 58th Session of the National Human Rights Institutions' Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva, Switzerland.

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

Balakrishnan said that although the 12th Plan document, on the basis of NCRB data, indicates that crimes against women in India had increased by 29.6 per cent between 2006 and 2010, police seems to be insensitive to such cases due to traditional and patriarchal mind-sets. Therefore, it 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 false implication and 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 said 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."

As to the Gross Enrolment Ratio for India, there is a gender gap in both the general and reserved categories and the same prevailed in the case of overall literacy even though it had increased for women from 53.67 per cent in 2001 to 65.46 per cent in the 2011 Census.

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.

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