March 29, 2017:
A national conference on police response to rape survivors today stressed the need for greater representation of women in the police force and rigorous training in evidence collection and investigation, without which convictions in cases become “impossible”.
The conference emphasised the need for better partnerships between civil society groups working in these areas and the police and other government agencies, saying this was a process that had picked up pace over the past years to uphold the rule of law and the rights of people.
Vrinda Grover, prominent Supreme Court lawyer and human rights activist asserted that while there was an increase in reports about sexual violence, there was underreporting of sexual assaults in families and places of work.
Ms. Grover and other prominent speakers were participating in the National Conference on 'First Response, Good Policing and Rape Survivors' convened by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in collaboration with the British High Commission.
Kanwaljit Deol, a former Director General of Police said the biggest challenges within the Indian police system are limited training, low women representation in the ranks and patriarchic values within the system. “I also feel that the police have been used very badly in our country, politically. The good officers who are in the position to lead are sidelined. There is no political will in this country to keep women safe. It is never an election issue,” she said, in an interaction moderated by senior journalist Nidhi Razdan.
Discussions revolved around the initiatives being taken by the police in Delhi and Mumbai to improve women’s safety and the key interventions required to support rape survivors.
“A victim becomes a survivor only when justice is done, conviction takes place and he/she is rehabilitated. The legal community and civil society should join hands to protect the dignity of the complainants, and guide victims through the legal processes and help with their rehabilitation,” said Flavia Agnes, lawyer and co-founder of the Mumbai-based NGO, Majlis.
Discussants agreed that no meaningful change was possible on the ground without addressing women’s vulnerability in availing justice. The need for an overhaul in the attitude of police towards the general public and the inclusion of women in policing were highlighted as central issues.
Sanjay Beniwal, Special Commissioner for Women’s Safety, Delhi Police, said, “From the police perspective, the biggest change after the Nirbhaya incident is that no questions are asked when a victim files a complaint and the registration of FIR is not restricted by jurisdiction.”
Fareen Malik, Member, Delhi Commission for Women, announced that the Centre had announced funds for the creation of One-Stop Centres in each district of Delhi, which would be soon operational. “Delhi will also have six more forensic labs,” she said.
Other speakers included Nayreen Daruwalla, Programme Director of Mumbai-based SNEHA and Bharti Sharma, Honourary Secretary of the New Delhi-based Shakti Shalini. Sharma pointed out that while police and civil society response to sexual violence was currently focused on rape, “other sexual offences like fondling and touching” were often overlooked.
CHRI released a 14-minute film, “24 Hours” on the work and challenges before the police and other responders in the crucial first 24 hours after a rape survivor comes to the police with a complaint.
Inaugurating the film, Andrew Mackenzie, Deputy Head (Political and Bilateral Affairs) at the British High Commission said, “Globally, one in three women are beaten or sexually abused once in their lifetimes. It is our hope that institutions will be able to use this film to shape their trainings and procedures and design the best possible response while engaging with rape survivors.”
For more information, contact: