Posted in Women and children

Clergy Sexual Abuse: Are First Rules of Reporting a Notable Action?

In Christianity, priests are envisaged as alter Christus, another Christ, and thus any sexual violation caused by them is a breach of the sacred trust that a person entails in the religious institutions. Widespread and growing sexual abuse at the hands of priests, nuns and other members of the religious orders and a number of attempts to cover them up has resulted in a worldwide distrust in the credibility of the Catholic institutional hierarchy and a threat to the papacy. A universal law that protects the victims of abuse from being silenced has been the need of the hour.

On the 9th of May, 2019 Pope Francis put forward the first law in an apostolic letter which obligated the Roman Catholics Church officials including all priests and nuns to report any type of clergy sexual abuse that they encounter or hear of, to the superiors in the Church. This move was undertaken by the Pope as a strong retaliation to the widespread sexual abuse at the hands of bishops across the world in order to bring in accountability post the landmark meeting held at the Vatican in the presence of global church leaders in February.

The meeting held in February ended up frustrating a lot of victims of abuse as well as the other faithful while the church leaders who were a part of the meeting were of the belief that it achieved a positive outcome though no specific action was decided upon in its due course. While the meeting did send out a strong message pertaining to the expected conduct on part of church bishops and zero tolerance for sexual abuse, it failed to provide a consolidated solution for the same.

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The first law introduced by the Pope is thus being considered as an all-embracing solution to the persistent problem of clergy sexual abuse as it diverges from the canon law wherein the power to judge a bishop’s conduct lies only in the hands of the Pope. The new laws have delegated the power to investigate any sexual misconduct on part of the church clerics to major archbishops across the world thus facilitating the due course of justice.

For the purpose of clear application of these norms, inclusivity has been brought in by including not only women but also minors as well as ‘vulnerable’ people who are not in a situation to defend or protect themselves due to physical, mental or other disabilities.

The decree has put power in the hands of archbishops in various regions of the world to look into sexual accusations against the bishops in their particular region.  It empowers churches to imposed stringent measures and brings justice to the victims of abuse. The church dioceses have been given a year’s time to establish facilitating procedures for the report of abuse.

But as rightly said by Cardinal Blasé Cupich, the archbishop of ChicagoYou can make all the laws in the world and then put it on the shelf if there is no motivation to enact it.”

While this law put in force by the Pope does depict a very progressive step taken, it cannot be considered to be a concrete solution to put a full stop on clergy sexual abuse as it does not propose any established penalty for the abusers. Each step taken for addressing this fallout needs to be questioned as to whether it is sufficient to render justice as well as a sense of healing to the victims of abuse?

Another key problematic issue that the new law fails to address is that of reporting abuse to the civil authorities. While the law necessitates the reporting of abuse (though not the police), it does not in any way ensure strict compliance. Here the responsibility to report abuse lies on the conscience of the church leaders who may or may not intend to protect the abused. There is no guarantee whether the aforementioned will be enacted by the bishops worldwide. Furthermore, the law and policies mentioned in the apostolic letter should be of such nature that can be comprehended and understood by the regular people having interests in the issue. The practice of control of narratives of problems and their solutions needs to be reformed in order to make it more inclusive of opinions and less concealing. Listening to the deliberations of those who have suffered is a must for catering to their needs of justice.

Unless there is widespread cooperation from the church leaders all over the world in establishing a basic understanding for the enforcement of safe environments in churches, the trust in this institution will continue eroding as it has been since the past years in light of the increasing sexual abuse incidents. Zero tolerance policies and their fruitful implementation is the only way to rebuild the hope and trust of people that have been damaged to a great extent.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priyanka Dhage

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Priyanka Dhage is a second-year student from NALSAR University of Law. She is an ADR enthusiast with a special interest in the field of negotiation and arbitration. She also loves to dance and travel.

Posted in Women and children

How Safe Are Women in India?

The day, a woman can walk freely on the roads at night, that day we can say that India has achieved Independence.

The issue of women safety has left the nation concerned since long, posing a blot on the nation. Crimes against women have been carried out in the society since its inception. Women, since time immemorial, have been subjected to violence, cruelty, and disgrace suggesting that they are and meant to be submissive to men, as second-class citizens.

It would certainly not be amiss to assert that women are the most susceptible, endangered, and jeopardized entity on Earth. Safety is certainly one of the most significant issues which comes into picture when we look at India as a developing nation. With the present perspective, when India strives to become a developed nation it would be hard to conclude even that India is a developing nation. A nation is developing only when all the individuals of the nation are safe, secure, healthy, and prosperous.

Crimes against Women

Women in our nation are never safe: be it home, workplace, roads, shopping malls, public transports and the like. Despite the existence of a number of special legislations in India for providing protection to women, the number of crimes against women has constantly increased, acting as an impediment in the growth of women and displaying the inefficiency of laws in our nation. There are various laws like Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, Domestic Violence Act 2005, Immoral Traffic Prevention Act [1956] alongside the provisions of IPC like Section 354, 372, 375, 509 etc, but they have proved to be ineffective till date.

India has reported 3,38,954 Crimes against Women in 2016 which include Rape, Sexual Harassment, Dowry Deaths, Molestation, Cruelty by Husband and Relatives, Kidnapping, Abduction and Immoral Trafficking which is a 106 percent rise in the number from 2006. Moreover, in 2016 the conviction rate of the crime is merely 19 percent and whereas the pendency percentage stands at 90 percent which is pitiful and disgraceful. It is therefore deduced that a crime against women is reported every 1.5 minute in India. These statistics pose a big question on us as to the safety of women in our nation. Undoubtedly, steps are being taken every other day to ensure such safety and provide a safe future for every women of the nation; but these crimes and violence leads us to the conclusion that all this goes in vain.

Reforms and Measures

“Charity begins at home.”

equality-2110563_960_720It all starts from home in the first place. Every individual must be educated about gender sensitisation and gender education so that they learn to respect the rights of women. It is when a person does not respect women’s rights, a crime is bound to take place. It is thus undeniable that education is the key to respect one’s rights.

Instead of legislating more laws the focus rather shall be upon more implementation of such laws. Implementation is the key as without implementation every law falls short of its achievable target and thus the motive behind the enactment of the law fails. With implementation, the approach of the authorities towards the female victims shall also be sensitive, the utter contrary of which was the case in the recent Bhopal rape case.

All the roads and streets in India should have a proper installation of CCTV cameras, not only installation but accurate scrutiny. These CCTVs will ensure to regulate the cases of violence against women as well as all other crimes, instilling a fear of being caught in the mind of the prospective criminal. Many countries around the world have these cameras all across the roads and they serve as a deterrent factor against crimes.

To ensure one’s safety, one needs to stand up. Women themselves need to take a stand when it comes to their safety. None will stand up for other’s even if they do that would be short-lived without serving any concrete purpose. That is why it is indispensable that women stand up for their own right whenever it comes to their safety and protection, not taking it for granted as if violence on them is customary and is bound to take place.

Conclusion

If India needs to really develop in all aspects and in every sense, it needs to protect its women. If half the population does not feel safe in a nation, it is nothing but a big failure on the part of the society.

Being a patriarchal society India faces a huge biasness against women and consider them to be an object of interest, which results in drastic and horrifying crimes against them. Despite the various laws present to tackle the issue, a prejudiced mindset and poor implementation turn out to be obstacles in receiving Justice. This mentality needs to be changed, either by will or by conscience. It needs to be understood that like men, women are also a living entity and are entitled to equal rights and opportunities akin to men. Faithful implementation of the laws is of the essence under the rule of law for Good Governance. After all, we are one of the largest democracies which work with the objective of ‘OF THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE’, and women too are a subset of People.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhishika Srivastava

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She is pursuing BA LLB from Gujarat Law Society, Gujarat University, Ahmedabad. Being a motivational speaker, she takes counselling sessions for students and turns up to public elocution, debates and moots. Academically avid and with an innate interest in writing, she is a member of the reputed SIAC and has presented and published various Research Papers in Reputed Journals, both National and International.

Posted in Women and children

Role of Teachers in POCSO Act, 2012

In a survey that was conducted by the Women and Child Development (WCD) in the year 2007 had shocking revelations for India. The survey showed that 53.22 % children reported having faced some form of sexual abuse in which 52.94% were boys and 47.06% girls. And about 69.0 % of children that were surveyed went through one or more forms of physical abuse[1].

Now, the perpetrators could the parents, family members, neighbours, teachers or an unknown person but mostly the perpetrator was a person who had authority over the child. Another disturbing fact that the child feared to report the abuse because of the fear of social stigma, fear that the person would accuse the child instead or some other factor that would not be in favour of the child or the family.

Authorities in schools, especially teachers, play a major role in a child’s life. That’s why when Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act was passed in the year 2012, Section 5 (f)[2] and Section 9 (f)[3] included anyone being on the management or staff of an educational institution to have been committed an aggravated form of sexual assault.

A child starts to spend half of his or her days in a school by the age of seven. Now teachers should maintain a clear and open communication line with the children so that in case of any incident the child is not in fear to report it. Now the management also should take in mind that the child also can be abused by the authority of the teacher has over the child. Thereby the authorities also should have counsellors to whom the children can feel free to approach. A teacher should always remember that just as a child spends a lot of time with the parents so does the child with the teacher.

Various guidelines regarding the same have been passed on to schools since then, the major one is the POCSO circular, 2015 by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).  The circular points out how the child deserves the right to access an environment that is safe, protective and conducive to overall development[4]. Major guidelines expected by the schools to follow were –

  1. The teachers, management and all the employees were bound by the Act[5] that they had to report any instance of child abuse as in Section 19(1) and 21.
  2. In-house induction sessions should be held with a module on gender sensitization. Every person who works in the school or in management or owners of the school should be told about the punishment which is higher as per the provisions of the Act. Teachers, in general, should be trained to handle when a child reports such a case and what should be done. Teachers should also have a close observation performance and psychological behaviour of the students as most of the times signs include sudden disinterest on the part of the children in participating or disinterest to study etc. The school management is also required to create awareness programs and necessary workshops from time to time as averting such offences is the primary aim of the management.
  3. The classes and the school in entirety should promote harmonious environment and inclusiveness.
  4. In Residential Schools training programs should be provided to the wardens and personal care and guidance to the girl children with a female matron for their dormitories.
  5. School Complaints Committee consisting of Principal/Vice- Principal, one male teacher, one female teacher, one female student, one male student and one non-teaching staff member must be set up to serve as complaints and Redressal body. An improved response system and alert administrative machinery are required to take immediate action on reported cases of misbehaviour. Also, suggestion/complain box should be provided in each school and any time a complainant on sexual offence is received the same should be acted upon immediately. The school should have CCTV cameras in main areas.
  6. Informal conversations should be held in form of discussions or activities or by observations with the students which can be helpful to notice if something is alarming.

By this, we can conclude that teachers may not able to stop such offences completely but may be able to reduce such offences and also bring the offenders in the light of law. Rather than waiting for some heinous crime to take place, it is the duty of every citizen to give every child an environment in which the child can grow mentally and physically without any fear. It is the right of every child.

[1] Study on Child Abuse INDIA 2007

[2] Section 5(f) – Aggravated penetrative sexual assault POCSO 2012

[3] Section 9(f) –Aggravated sexual assault POCSO 2012

[4] CBSE Circular Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) 2012

[5] POCSO, 2012


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anita Thomas

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Anita Thomas is currently pursuing her third-year BBA LLB at Symbiosis Law School. She has a passion for research work and paper presentations. Her main area of interest is Family law and wants to advocate more in the area of Child rights. She also wants to learn more about Media law and work in a production house one day.

Posted in Child Rights, Women and children

Child Labour: A Turpitude in Child’s Life

Child labour is an international concern which not only spoils the future of those kids but brings them to the door of adversity and despair. A child at his tender age should be endowed with love, care and a fortuity to learn. Instead of training these young minds to fill their pockets they should be given an opportunity to shape their naïve minds with the tool of education. India has been a centre of child labour for decades. The world has been facing the problem of child labour since centuries and after the era of industrialization, there was a rapid increase in the exploitation of child rights.

Indian law accommodates multi-fold principles for curing this poison of society. Despite innumerable legislations and mandates, child labour still seems like an exuberant. One in every eleven children in India is working, and the concentrated states in India for child labour are Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. 80% of working children are mainly based in rural areas and three out of four are working in the field of agriculture.

Reasons for this forced work is not just the greed of parents to earn money for their children. There are sour realities behind, which compel small kids to leave their priceless childhood for the sake of earning few meals for themselves and their families. Most children suffer from this anguish due to the family indebtedness or lack of livelihood options or poverty.  The increased sympathy towards child workers tends to accelerate the pace of child trafficking for trafficked work. Children are an easy prey of this copious because the payment made to a child is much lower than the payment made to an adult for the same work.

Child labour is not consistent and steady. It changes with the change in society. Due to rapid change in legislation and growth of laws, child labour has become more of a hidden crime. Children are more often found working in households rather than seen working in factories and industries. There is no documentation or registration done for these kids as the workers of any industry due to the presence of strict laws. But child labour in unregistered format does not put an end to it.

There is not just one legislation, there are dozens of laws which keep an eye on child labour in India.  The related and relevant legislations are; Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, National Policy on Child Labour; Juvenile Justice Act; The Right to Education, etc. UNICEF has been working for a long time against child labour by spreading the message and strengthening child protection systems.

Child labour in India has become more gender-specific, girls are more into domestic work while boys are more seen to be employed in factories and as a wage labour. The working hour and the workload duration increases as children grow older. Child labour is facing a huge problem due to its complexity and unawareness of people. Children in India are often found as rag pickers, newspaper hawkers, selling gloomy stuff at the roadside and on signals, working as a helper in restaurants and food corners; for which they are paid a meagre sum of money.

It isn’t always the fact that those children choose to work or they are forced into it and they imperiously do it. Kids at this delicate age do not realize the importance of education and knowledge. They should be dispensed with just and a decent avenue towards education. Adults and child’s caregiver should understand that those little hands are not meant to work, those tiny eyes are full of dreams and imagination, they get paid at the cost of their future and the tears they shed. Kids are not driven to this adversity because of fate and poverty, unawareness is the reason for it.

Talking to a cleaner Awanti, who lives in the slums near Gwalior City Centre, her 9-year daughter Riddhi accompanies her to her workplace. She says her son goes to school, which is why she cannot afford to send her daughter to school. The lack of understanding about family planning and unawareness about the impact of lack of education leads to this situation. Unknowingly, Awanti is pushing her daughter in the zone of education deprives.

Curtailing child labour is not just the duty of government but is a moral responsibility of every citizen of this country and of the globe. Awareness and knowledge is the only key which can stop this evil from expanding its vicinity, laws and regulations are needed when morality is harmed. If masses understand the need to protect a child’s tomorrow then prerequisite of laws is not needed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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YOGRICHA VERMA

Yogricha Verma, a fourth-year law student at Amity Law School, Amity University Madhya Pradesh, is also a student of Company Secretary under ICSI. She is a student member of Indian National Bar Association (INBA) and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb). Her native is Bhopal, India. She is also a freelancer and an artist and loves to do social works.

Posted in Criminal Law, Women and children

Pride and Dignity: Women at workplace

In the era of globalization, modernization, and rationalization, one thing which is most applauded about is women empowerment. International leaders, celebrities, politicians, youth, and even the laymen talk about the blurring gap between men and women and uplifting women, not only socially but politically as well as economically.  But the irony is, it is all loose talk in the air, because when the time comes to execute it practically, women are always portrayed as weaklings, needing male support at all times.

The esteemed workplace where she can prove herself itself becomes the place where her wings get clipped. The question which arises is, what stops her in her workplace to work efficiently? What stops her to work freely without fear? The answer is, unfortunately, SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE. Statistics show seven out of ten women are sexually harassed at the workplace. Around ninety percent women are not aware how to deal with the situation or what can be done to stop it or is there any way out? Fortunately, the answer to all these questions is, YES! And the credit for such steps goes to the judiciary as well as the government of India. Now, what is needed is generating awareness among women as well as people regarding prevention of sexual harassment at workplace.

The Supreme court in Vishaka & others versus State of Rajasthan and others laid down guidelines directing that these guidelines would be strictly observed in all workplaces for enforcement of gender equality of women at the workplace.

The facts of the case were, there was a writ petition filed by some social activists with the aim of bringing the attention towards growing incidents of sexual harassment at workplace. It was aimed at preventing sexual harassment at workplace by laying down certain guidelines.

But the immediate cause for filing such petition was the gangrape of a social worker in a village in Rajasthan. It was contended that sexual harassment leads to violation of fundamental rights under Art. 14 (equality before law), Art. 15 (Prohibition of discrimination), and Art 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of a woman. But by laying down necessary directions court had endeavoured to ensure “A safe working environment to women”. The court even directed central as well as state governments to consider the appropriate legislation for the same.

The second step was the Sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) act 2013 [SHW ACT]. The act defines sexual harassment as ANY Unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, and demands, from male employees at the workplace, which includes:

    • any physical contacts and advances
    • sexually coloured remarks
    • showing pornography
    • passing lewd comments or gestures
    • sexual demands.

It mandates all the employers to constitute an INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE [ICC] at each office or branch with ten or more employees and requires fifty percent should be women.  It requires time-bound redressal of complaints which should be confidential. It requires employers to conduct education and sensitization programs and provide a safe working environment.

The other initiative was Justice Verma committee; it recommended Employment Tribunal comprising two retired judges, two sociologists and a social activist to obviate the need of ICC which was not functioning as it was intended.

The latest and the most technically efficient initiative the government has launched is the SHE BOX (sexual harassment electronic box). Recently government launched an online platform, which will enable women employees to file complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace.

This online initiative seeks to ensure effective implementation of SHW act 2013. Once a complaint is submitted to the portal, it will be directly sent to the ICC of the concerned ministry or department.

The SHE BOX will cater effective and immediate and speedier remedy to women facing sexual harassment as well it will help the complainant to monitor the progress of the inquiry.

Currently, the complaint can be filed by central government employees only, which will later be extended to all. Under the vision of digital India program, it will help in achieving the goal of gender equality and women empowerment.

Barack Obama once quoted, “A country’s progress and future depend upon how we treat our women and girls”. Let us ensure that women can live their dreams, by ensuring a safe work environment at the workplace where they can work in par with their male counterparts with no obstacles coming in their way, and appreciation coming their way for achievements.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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DEEKSHA KATHAYAT

Deeksha Kathayat is currently pursuing BLS LLB (third-year) from Dr. D. Y. Patil College of Law. An enthusiast debater and avid mooter, she’s into occasions where she can express her views on various issues. She believes that we realize the importance of our voice only when we are silenced. An aspiring bureaucrat, she describes herself as Unstoppable, Unconstrained, and Zealous.

Posted in Criminal Law, Women and children

Section 498A IPC – The Illusion of Misuse

In the matter of “Rajesh Sharma and Ors Vs. the State of Uttar Pradesh”, the Supreme Court on 27th July, said that there will not be a “normal arrest” of the accused without probing the veracity of the complaint. Previously, in a similar case of Arnesh Kumar Vs the State of Bihar in 2014, the Supreme Court, to protect the human rights of the “innocents”, had restrained the police to directly arrest the accused without proper investigation. Taking the purview of the misuse of the section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, Supreme Court held that a “Family Welfare Committee” will be constituted by District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA) in every district and the complaints received by the police or magistrate will be referred to this committee. The members of this committee will be social workers, the wives of working officials, paralegal volunteers, social workers, and anyone who is willing and competent. The committee is supposed to submit a report of the case to an investigating officer within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint.

According to the data from National Crime Record Bureau (2015), out of all cases registered under section 498A of domestic and sexual violence, only fifteen percent have been reported in which the accused is convicted. This data to some extent shows the misuse of section 498-A by women. But the data does not provide a holistic picture because there may be different reasons for the acquittal of the accused like improper investigation by the investigating officer, some mid-way settlement, threatening the complainant or the witnesses, etc. So, the data itself is neither comprehensive nor conspicuous.

This move by the Supreme Court has been criticised by the women activists groups as containing an ingrained bias that women misuse the law. While according to the data by National Family Health Survey-3 fifty-three percent of the victims of some sort of sexual or physical violence have never gone to the police and out the forty-seven percent who have sought help of the police, only two percent have filed a First Information Report (FIR) while the remaining have just registered it as a Non-cognizable offence.

In this case, the Supreme Court has seen just one side of the coin while the other remains hidden beneath. This judgement also curtails the powers of the police and only after the review by the “Family Welfare Committee”, can police take any action. Thus, this also creates a virtual justice dispensation system.

The fact the entire process of a full one-month review of the case by the committee is also a problem for the victims of serious sexual or domestic violence. This will delay the justice delivery process and can even cause more sabotage. The victim could be pressurised to withdraw or threatened which again questions the very purpose for which section 498-A was added to the Indian Penal Code.

Also, the rate of conviction is low in nearly all the cases so Supreme Court must rethink considering the damage it would cause to the real victim. This judgement opens the scope of further misuse of the law if not by women, then men. As many are already sceptical of the effectiveness of the judgement, it may delve a victim into the labyrinth of a breakdown if justice is not provided at the appropriate time.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ashish lD

ASHISH KUMAR YADAV

Ashish is an undergraduate student at Cluster Innovation Centre, University of Delhi. The institution has a Meta College concept and focuses on an interdisciplinary approach.  He is the co-founder of two non-profit ventures, one of which deals with education and the other in enhancing scientific communication among the masses. He has done three research projects at Cluster Innovation Centre the first aimed to create a prototype of full-fledged Hindi dictionary and another on the Study of a community’s cultural tradition (Banjara community). The third project was Hafta bazaar aimed to digitalize and study the various weekly markets in Delhi. He is quite ardent in the field of economics and journalism and is intrigued by topics from digital marketing to management, which are reflected in his undergraduate studies. He was also a part of a report published on education.