NHRC seeks response from centre, states on sexual harassment cases, Nirbhaya Fund
The human rights panel observed that India, the world’s largest democracy is being criticised for harbouring the "most unsafe environment for women".
The National Human Rights Commission issued notices to the centre and all states and UTs on December 2, 2019 to submit reports regarding their standard operating procedures relating to cases involving sexual violence against women and the use of Nirbhaya Fund.
The Commission has sought a report from the chief secretaries of all states and UTs within six weeks about the status of the Nirbhaya Fund in their states. The commission has also sought details about the availability of the fund and the total money spent from it in the last three years.
The National Human Rights Commission also issued notices to all the DGPs in the states and UTs, seeking their response on the SOPs and best practices adopted by them to deal with matters of sexual abuse and atrocities committed against women.
The commission has also sought details regarding the action taken against the police officers or officials, who were found insensitive and or were negligent towards issues related to women. The commission has given them the time of six weeks to respond.
The Human Rights Commission has also asked for a detailed report from the Secretary, Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on the various schemes and guidelines initiated by the centre and the status of their implementation including Nirbhaya Fund by the states and UTs. The Secretary has also been given six weeks to respond.
India most unsafe for women?
The National Human Rights Commission observed that India, which is the largest democracy in the world and has the longest written constitution and rich cultural heritage of gender equality, is being criticised today for harbouring the "most unsafe environment for women".
Nirbhaya Fund not being used appropriately?
The Commission stated that several media reports have revealed that the amount made available under the Nirbhaya Fund has not only been reduced but it is also not being utilised appropriately by the state governments and Union territories.
Lack of SOPs
The human rights panel also observed that there is a lack of standard operating procedures when it comes to dealing with incidents of sexual violence against women and emergencies concerning the same. The panel also pointed out that many sexual harassment cases have reportedly occurred due to gross negligence by the administration and law enforcing agencies.
The National Human Rights Commission highlighted that generally when anyone goes to a police station seeking help after the disappearance of a woman or minor girl child, it is alleged that the police’s answer generally suggests that she might have run away or eloped with someone. The panel said that this humiliating and stereotype mindset needs to be changed. It also observed that there is an increasing need to address the core issue effectively, as this not only creates an atmosphere of fear but also tarnishes the image of India.
Need to work jointly to end sexual violence
The commission reiterated the need for all the stakeholders to work jointly to end sexual violence against women. The commission also pointed out that incidents of sexual harassment such as rape, molestation, gender discrimination and other atrocities against women, unfortunately, become routine media headlines.
The commission stressed that though there constitutional and statutory provisions to ensure that women are not subjected to any harassment or discrimination, there is an "alarming trend" that indicates that things are getting worse amounting to a violation of the right to life, liberty, dignity and equality of women across the nation. The Commission stated that the incidents indeed involve violation of the human rights of the victims.
The National Human Rights Commission is a statutory body, which was constituted in October 1993. The commission was set up after the promulgation of the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance in September 1993.
The Commission is the apex body, responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, which is defined by the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 as “right to life, dignity, equality and liberty of an individual” as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The commission’s interference is considered necessary to understand where the state agencies and other stakeholders are lacking and what actions can be taken to resolve the situation on an urgent basis.
The commission raised its concern after several sexual harassment cases were reported by the media recently, where the women were subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment by the perpetrators. The commission feels that timely action by the police could have helped avert some of the incidents.