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Experts debate steps needed to gender sensitise city
NIDHI GUPTA  9th Mar 2013

Kiran M Kerpelman, Director, UN Information Centre for India & Bhutan, speaking at the panel talk

ast week, a 19-year-old girl was raped by three men in Ghaziabad. The week before that, a minor was assaulted in Mangolpuri. The assaults on women, as is apparent, have continued unabated, regardless of public outrage and any ordinances or committees that the government might have issued. It would seem, then, that the malaise is a more deep-rooted one that cannot be stemmed only through corrective state action.

To address this aspect, the New Delhi Hub of the Global Shapers Community (a youth initiative of the World Economic Forum) organised a panel discussion on how to make Delhi and the NCR a more gender sensitive space, last Wednesday. With a rather illustrious panel — including Dr. Ashwani Kumar, union minister of law and justice; former IPS officer Prakash Singh; Madhu Kishwar, academic and activist; BJP national secretary Vani Tripathi; Geeta Luthra, senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India and Vrinda Marwah, program coordinator at CREA and former president of LSR student union — the 100 strong audience expected a riveting discussion and some workable solutions.

However the debate, for the larger part, stayed squarely in the realm of law and its implementation. While Dr. Kumar and Marwah praised the recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee, Kishwar and Luthra were quick to point out its flaws. "The issue of consent, which is what Justice Verma Committee's work is being hailed for, is not something new — it has been addressed in the penal code ever since its last amendment. The question now really should be whether marital rape should be included in this latest bill — because that would amount to triplication of the same provisions," noted Kishwar. Luthra also said that demanding vicarious liability for police officers was flawed as it would paralyse the entire force.

Police reforms were also in focus, as Singh spoke of a movement that he has started to ensure that "our force transforms from a ruler's police to a people's police". "There have been certain improvements — increased patrolling, increasing the number of women police etc. — but these are all knee-jerk reactions. The police has be to uniformly sensitive to the masses needs," he emphasised. For this purpose, Kishwar suggested CCTV cameras be installed in police stations, so that they can be held accountable for their behaviour with victims.

There were a few solutions that the panellists suggested that could help the cause. Kishwar suggested 'neighbour watches' as a way to monitor crimes, collectively, in one's locality. Luthra also said that the government needs to work towards making tests of sexual violation more scientific as this would help raise the conviction rate from a dismal 26% at present. Meanwhile, Marwah stressed on the need to address the culture of rape and women's rights at large.

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