Urgent Need For Gender-Sensitized Judiciary As Rape Survivor’s Support Network Denied Bail
New Delhi / Bengaluru: 17 July 2020 9:30 pm
In response to the harsh treatment of a rape survivor and two social workers who were supporting her through the legal processes by the Magistrate in Araria district in Bihar, the Executive Director of Amnesty International India, Avinash Kumar said:
“The week-long incarceration of a 22-year-old gang-rape survivor and two social workers assisting her amidst COVID-19 in Bihar was unwarranted and excessive. On 17 July 2020, the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Araria granted bail to the survivor but upheld the detention of the social workers. Rape survivors already face numerous barriers in seeking redress, which go above and beyond the trauma they have experienced. Each case of sexual violence must be dealt with utmost precaution.”In another show of lack of gender-sensitivity, local media outlets in Araria have also revealed the name and identity of the survivor.
The Justice Verma Committee report notes the lack of sensitized judges in India and recommends that guidelines be put in place for courts to be sensitive and create a friendly and non-hostile environment for the survivor. Women’s access to justice is also essential to the realisation of all the rights protected under the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which India is a state party. The General Recommendation on Women’s Access to Justice by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women recommends that judges handle the cases in a gender-sensitive manner. It also calls on states to encourage civil society to participate in litigation and legal proceedings related to gender-based violence.
Sexual violence remains hugely under-reported in India. According to the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey, 77% of women who experienced any type of physical or sexual violence never sought help or told anyone about the violence. Of those, only 3% sought help from police. Lack of trust in the justice system and the stigma attached to the violence deter many from reporting rape.
“Sexual violence is not just a violation of the right to physical integrity but also psychological integrity. Jailing a survivor and her support network not only stands to perpetuate this violation but also re-victimise and stigmatise her. The needs of a survivor must be heeded and not criminalised. In view of this and alarming rate at which COVID-19 is spreading in jails, the social workers must be immediately released,” said Reena Tete, Manager, Gender and Identity-based Violence Programme.
On 10 July 2020, a 22-year-old gang-rape survivor in Araria district, Bihar became agitated while her statement was being recorded about the incident before the Magistrate. She asked the statement to be read to her by one of the social workers from Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, who was present at the court premises to assist her. In response, the Magistrate booked the survivor and the two social workers for contempt of court as well as Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge or his duty), Section 228 (Intentional insult or interruption to public servant sitting in judicial proceeding) and Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant). The three were then sent to a jail over 200 kms away from Araria. On 17 July 2020, the survivor was granted bail while the social workers’ detention was further extended.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of India has called on states to decongest prisons. To date, at least 1441 persons have tested positive in prisons across India. The continued detention of the social workers puts their lives at grave risk.