Sept 29, 2020
New Delhi and Lucknow
Rape survivors face multiple barriers in seeking registration of their complaints by the police, blocking their access to justice at the very first stage of the legal system, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI) said in a joint report released yesterday. Adding to this, the legal remedies against this police malpractice are difficult to pursue and often do not provide redress.
Titled ‘Barriers in Accessing Justice: The experiences of 14 rape survivors in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’, the report documents case studies of police refusal and failure to register complaints of survivors of sexual violence, each survivor’s journey in pursuing remedies, and the final outcomes. It draws on interviews with 14 rape survivors across seven districts of UP and with caseworkers and lawyers providing support.
“The report provides strong evidence of the barriers imposed by the police on women survivors, including caste and gender-based discrimination, discouragement to report the crime and forceful acceptance of illegal compromises and settlements. The police’s failure to register complaints of rape (and other sexual offences) is a crime under the Indian Penal Code,” said CHRI.
At the online launch of the report, Shobhana Smriti, a Dalit activist from Eastern UP, affirmed, “Survivors are not heard by the police even when they go to the police station. The police’s attitude is not at all sensitive towards them.”
Renu Mishra, Executive Director, AALI, added, “In our work, we see almost daily that whenever police are approached for registration of FIR in sexual assault cases, they refuse. The question is - when will the police be held accountable? When will the laws brought in to help sexual assault survivors be implemented as intended?”
In each of the 14 cases, the police refused to register the survivor’s First Information Report (FIR) in the first instance. Out of the 14 cases, FIRs of rape were registered only in 11 cases only after survivors sought legal remedies. Of the 11 cases registered, survivors’ and caseworkers’ testimonies revealed that the time taken by the police to actually register an FIR ranged from 2 to 228 days. In 6 of these cases, the police took more than 100 days to register the FIR.
“We need to have a culture of accountability that starts at the top and goes all the way down. This report is not just about 14 cases, but the patterns which these cases reflect. When women go to police stations, the police need to recognise that they are there to report what they have gone through,” said Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, CHRI.
Vrinda Grover, a Supreme Court lawyer, said, “Women know the law and want to use it, this is a positive change. The problem is the police’s lack of recognition of rape as a criminal, violative act, and the importance of centering sexual assault laws within a gender rights frame. The 14 cases in this report show that the criminal justice system is completely broken.”
The report makes specific recommendations to governments, police departments and independent bodies on issues of registration of FIRs, police accountability and non-discrimination. These include:
Sutapa Sanyal, former Director General of Police, UP, said “Police training must include more conversations on sensitivity. Standard Operating Procedures must be fixed, so that accountability can be ensured. Policing needs greater specialisation especially to deal with crimes against women and children.”
‘Barriers in Accessing Justice’ was released online in the presence of Shobhana Smiriti, Dalit Activist, Vrinda Grover, advocate, Supreme Court of India, Sutapa Sanyal, former Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, Renu Mishra, Executive Director, AALI, and Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, CHRI.
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