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United Nations body recalls Gujarat riots, insists on enacting "dropped" communal violence bill

By Our Representative
At a time when the Narendra Modi government is all set to consider dropping it, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has asked the Government of India (GoI) to “promptly enact the draft Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill” as an important step to prevent violence against women. It notes “continued marginalization and poverty of women and girls survivors of the Gujarat riots living in the relief colonies and their precarious living conditions with limited access to education, health care, employment and security.”
This law is also needed, CEDAW indicates, because there has been a “significant number of displaced women and girl, particularly in the North-Eastern region”, resulting from “sporadic communal violence”. In this context, it expressed deep concern about “the reported high level of violence against women in conflict-affected regions” in Kashmir, the North East, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Pointing towards state complicity in all this, SEDAW wants the Government f India (GoI) to “amend and/or repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act”.
This, CEDAW suggests, is necessary to end “sexual violence against women perpetrated by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel”, who, it insists, should be “brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law.” Asking GoI to “remove the requirement for government permission to prosecute members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel accused of crimes of violence against women”, CEDAW says, the Protection of Human Rights Act be also changed by conferring powers to the National Human Rights Commission to investigate cases against armed forces personnel.
Noting the need for stricter implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to prevent caste-based violence against women, CEDAW -- which has just prepared its "concluding observations on conditions of women -- says, the number of rapes reported by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2012 indicated an increase by 902.1% since 1971, adding, despite “Escalation of caste-based violence, including rape, against women and girls”, there is an effort to downplay the grave criminal nature of sexual violence against women and girls by “key state officials.”
Pointing towards “poor implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act”, CEDAW says, in India there is a “high number of dowry-related deaths since 2008”, “persistence of so-called honour crimes perpetrated by family members against women and girls; declining girl-child sex ratio from 962 per 1000 in 1981 to 914 per 1000 in 2011”, and “increasing number of acid attacks against women since 2002, despite the underreporting of such crimes.”
CEDAW wants GoI “to strengthen the independent status, capacity and resources of the National Commission of Women in line with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (Paris Principles; see General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 1993, Annex)” and “ensure that the composition and activities of the commission are gender-sensitive, and increase the budget for the empowerment of women in the Ministry for Women and Child development, as well as that under the gender budget statements.”
Wanting GoI to “enact the Women’s Reservation in Services Bill to reserve at least 33 per cent of the seats in the state and central legislative bodies for women candidates”, CEDAW insists on the need to “create an enabling environment for women to participate in all democratic processes including elections, and in particular strengthen women’s participation in Gram Sabhas, Mahila Sabhas and other formal and informal governance forums at the local level.”
Wanting GoI to properly implement the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, CEDAW says, “It remains concerned that only 4 per cent of the GDP is spent on education, that girls with disability and minorities still register low enrolment rates, and that the dropout rate among adolescent girls is as high as 64 percent, making them particularly vulnerable to child marriage.”
CEDAW wants GoI to “address causes of the low enrolment rate of girls from minorities and girls with disability, and the high dropout rates of adolescent girls from school, including those living in conflict areas, such as gender stereotypes, poverty and sexual harassment in school, and early marriages and formulate re-entry policies enabling young women to return to school after pregnancy.” It also seeks ban on “the occupation of schools by security forces in conflict-affected regions in compliance with international humanitarian standards.”

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