NEW DELHI: Survivors of rape, and their families struggle with the criminal justice system in India with implementation of laws not being systematically enforced, shows a report released on Wednesday.
The report 'Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors' released by Equality Now and Dignity Alliance Internatiional said India was among five other countries where there is an urgent need for the governments to address sexual violence, improve access to justice, and end impunity for perpetrators.
The report called on the countries to implement comprehensive and inclusive measures that effectively address sexual and gender-based violence.
These include addressing protection gaps in the law, improving police responses to cases of sexual violence, ensuring survivor-friendly medical examinations in rape cases, improving prosecution procedures and trials of sexual offences, designing and funding holistic interventions to improve access to justice for survivors, reviewing laws and policies to ensure the specific needs of all marginalised communities, the report said.
The methodology includes primary and secondary research methods.
As a part of the primary research, there were in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with 28 survivors of sexual violence from the four countries of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal.
Twenty stakeholders from across six countries were also consulted. Stakeholders include lawyers, representatives of NGOs and other professionals who provide services to survivors of sexual violence.
Survivors and stakeholders from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Banglaesh said the susceptibility of justice system officials including police, medical officers and public prosecutors, to bribery and corruption was a severe challenge for survivors in accessing justice in cases of rape.
In India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, 60 per cent of the survivors interviewed reported facing pressure to settle or compromise in the case.
The conviction rate in India was low which led to impunity for survivors, the report added.
Quality support services for survivors were lacking, with minimal access to safe houses, counselling and psychosocial care. Poor provision of victim and witness protection schemes put survivors and their families at risk of coercion, it added.
Divya Srinivasan, the report's co-author, said, “Our research reveals how governments across South Asia need to take urgent action to provide women and girls with better protection against sexual violence and end widespread impunity for perpetrators. This requires closing gaps in laws, addressing flaws in criminal justice systems, and investing in holistic responses to ensure access to justice and support for survivors.”