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ED: Halls of injustice

  • Published at 03:37 am October 12th, 2020
sexual violence law
Photo: BIGSTOCK

More than 165,000 cases were pending on charges of violence against women and children

Our recent editorials have highlighted how our legal system remains one of the primary reasons why perpetrators of rape and other forms of sexual violence all too often go scot-free and, thereby, nurturing a toxic culture of impunity which encourages similar crimes to persist, no matter what the punishment for the crime may be.  

Archaic definitions of rape and provisions which fail to disallow child marriage while simultaneously allowing women’s character, lifestyle, and sexual history to be used as evidence have rendered our laws incapable of holding perpetrators accountable for the heinous crimes they have committed.  

But our justice system is no better, if not worse. 

According to the Supreme Court, as of June 2019, more than 165,000 cases were pending on charges of violence against women and children, of which more than 38,000 have been pending for over five years. 

Such delays have continued despite the fact that the High Court had issued several directives, one of which required judges of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals across the country to finish trials of cases which involved rape within six months.

In addition, the presence of witnesses and their security had to be ensured through the formation of committees, members of which would then be responsible for submitting reports to the Supreme Court and the Home and Law Ministries -- another responsibility which seems to have not been carried out. 

One cannot chalk this up to mere incompetence or bureaucracy -- the judiciary has been criminally negligent in carrying out its duties and it is especially unforgivable when one considers the repulsive nature of the crimes. 

When a victim of sexual violence faces insurmountable hurdles at every step -- from society, the police, the law, and even the judiciary -- in order to have some semblance of justice, is it any wonder that rapists rarely ever find themselves behind bars and that most cases of rape go unreported?

This current state of affairs is unacceptable -- nothing short of a complete overhaul of our criminal justice system will even come close to ensuring that our courts can once more claim to do their job of protecting the people.