Five years post Nirbhaya: Critical insights into the status of response to sexual assault
It is five years since the fatal gang rape of Jyothi Singh (Nirbhaya), a physiotherapy student, on December 16, 2012, in New Delhi, the capital of India. The legal and policy reforms triggered by the Nirbhaya case will remain a watershed moment in the history of efforts towards seeking justice for survivors of gender-based violence in India. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 and the “Guidelines and protocols: Medico-legal care for survivors/victims of sexual violence” issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in March 2014 are two landmark reforms. March 2018 marks four years since the issuance of these Guidelines and five years since the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Any reasonable tribute to Nirbhaya would constitute fair implementation of legal reforms, efforts to strengthen multi-sectoral response and sincere attempts to reduce crimes against women, gender and sexual minorities, and children.
This paper reviews the issue, through a close study of recent cases of rape, police responses, court judgements, studies, news reporting and field-based observations. It brings forth the gaps in implementation that persist, and constitute a major obstacle in making these progressive policies and reforms effective. Given the fact that the reforms are intersectoral in nature, implementation has been particularly challenging. Lack of efficient implementation of such policies and reforms amounts to denying survivors their right to justice.
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