Women in conflict areas vulnerable to atrocities: Plan panel

UMER MAQBOOL

Srinagar, Jan 24: Amid renewed debate on the need to review contentious Armed Forces Special powers Act (AFSPA) and make it gender-sensitive in light of Justice JS Verma panel recommendations, the 12th Plan document approved by the National Development Council (NDC) also brings to fore the vagaries faced by the women in conflict areas due to applicability of the controversial law.
“Women in disturbed areas face special issues including continuous army presence, suspended civil rights and lack of normal access to facilities/services due to continuous violence. They are most vulnerable to atrocities and need special attention in areas like healthcare measures, schools, free legal aid and so on,” the plan document reads.
The document further says that gender sensitization programs will be held for the authorities who implement specific legislations applicable to disturbed areas such as the AFSPA and so on.
“The 12th plan will also initiate review of AFSPA using a gender lens. Documentation of the gendered dimension of violations and needs assessment of women in disturbed areas presently under AFSPA will be done,” it reads.
Pertinently, while asserting that “there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA and AFSPA-like legal protocols in internal conflict areas”, Justice Verma-headed three-member panel has recommended a slew of measures for protection of womenfolk in troubled areas including Kashmir and northeast.
The judicial panel set up in the wake of protests over gang-rape of a physiotherapist in New Delhi last month has called for amendment in the section (6) of AFSPA to pave way for prosecution of soldiers involved in crimes against women in civil courts.
“Provided that, no sanction shall be required if the person has been accused of committing an offence under Section 354, Section 354A, Section 354B, Section 354C, Section 376(1), Section 376(2), Section 376(3), Section 376A, Section 376B, Section 376C, Section 376D, Section 376D or Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code-1860,” the recommendation of the panel reads.
Pertinently, under section 6 of AFSPA, no prosecution can be initiated against the central forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeastern states without getting prior permission from Union Defence Ministry for Army and Union Home Ministry for paramilitary forces like Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The panel says that sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law. “Special care must also be taken to ensure the safety of women who are complainants and witnesses in cases of sexual assault by armed personnel,” the panel says.
Giving novel recommendations for protection of womenfolk, the panel recommends that there should be special commissioners – appointed judicially or legislatively – for women’s safety and security in all areas of conflict in the country.
“These commissioners must be chosen from those who have experience with women’s issues, preferably in conflict areas. In addition, such commissioners must be vested with adequate powers to monitor and initiate action and criminal prosecution in all cases of sexual violence against women by armed forces personnel,” it has observed.
The report of the judicial panel made public on Wednesday maintains that care must be taken to ensure safety and security of women detainees in police stations and women at army or paramilitary check points. “And this should be a subject under the regular monitoring of the special commissioners mentioned earlier,” the panel recommends.
Further recommending measures for the protection of women in conflict areas, the report says: “The general law relating to detention of women during specified hours of the day must be strictly followed; training and monitoring of armed forces personnel must be reoriented to include and emphasize strict observance by the armed forces personnel of all orders issued in this behalf.”
Besides, it also says jurisdictional issues must be resolved immediately and simple procedural protocols put in place to avoid situations where police refuse or refrain from registering cases against paramilitary personnel.
Making its observations vis-à-vis legal protection available to women in conflict areas, the panel says: “We are indeed deeply concerned at the growing distrust of the State and its efforts to designate these regions as ‘areas of conflict’ even when civil society is available to engage and inform the lot of the poor. We are convinced that such an attitude on the part of the State only encourages the alienation of our fellow citizens.”
The report also says that impunity for systematic or isolated sexual violence in the process of internal security duties is being legitimized by AFSPA.
“It must be recognized that women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is afforded to citizens in any other part of our country. India has signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which has to be honored. We therefore believe that strong measures to ensure such security and dignity will go a long way not only to provide women in conflict areas their rightful entitlements, but also to restore confidence in the administration in such areas leading to mainstreaming,” the panel says.

Lastupdate on : Thu, 24 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 24 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 25 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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