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Marital rape is as condemnable as other crimes against women: Maneka Gandhi

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credits: iansphoto.in
credits: iansphoto.in

New Delhi: Marital rape is condemnable as is violence against women in any form, said Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi. Her view assumes significance, as it runs contrary to the government’s position that charge of marital rape was untenable in India due to the nature of the society and its beliefs and mindsets.

Gandhi said that marital rape is about a man’s need to assert his power on a woman. “My opinion is that violence against women shouldn’t be limited to violence by strangers. Very often a marital rape is not always about a man’s need for sex; it is only about his need for power and subjugation. In such case, it should be treated with seriousness,” Gandhi told a media outlet in the course of an interview.

The government’s stand on marital rape sparked a row recently, as it held that this cannot be treated as a criminal offense, as marriage is seen as a :”sacrament” between husband and wife in India.

Minister of State for Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary had told parliament that there is no proposal to bring any amendment to the law for criminalizing marital rape. “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context owing to various factors, e.g. level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat marriage as a sacrament, etc,” he said.

Contradicting the argument, many activists and champions of women’s rights, as well voices in the opposition ranks, have denounced the government stand as retrograde, with many pointing out that the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recommended to India that marital rape be criminalised. The Justice J.S. Verma committee also recommended the criminalization of marital rape. According to United Nations Population Fund, 75 percent of married women in India were subjected to marital rape.

This is not the first time Gandhi has voiced her difference with the decisions of her government. In March, Gandhi had come out with her opposition to the proposed amendments to the Anti-Dowry Act. It has been reported that the home ministry was mulling amendments to the Act, to check the spurt in the fake cases of harassment and misuse of the law. Gandhi was quoted as saying, that the legislation should not be changed as it was women-friendly.

In another dissenting note, Gandhi recently wrote a letter to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, protesting the slashing of 50 percent allocation to her ministry’s budget, for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme. However, Gandhi told the media that the finance ministry has now assured her that the funds won’t be cut. “I got an assurance from the finance ministry that the funds for ICDS would not be cut,” she added. (IANS)

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Sex with Wife Below 18 Is Rape, says Supreme Court

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Supreme court on child marriage case.
The Supreme Court of India says sex with wife below 18 is Rape. Wikimedia

New Delhi, October 11: The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the provision of criminal law that permitted sex by a husband with his minor wife between the age of 15 to 18 years in a child marriage case.

Section 375 of the Indian Panel Code made an exception on the question of sex with minor wife by the husband in child marriage case.

A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta — in separate but concurring judgements — said the exception was “arbitrary, discriminatory and capricious”.

Justice Lokur said the exception has no rational nexus with the objective sought to be achieved by the different statutes. (IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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United nations
India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.