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Last Updated: Friday, 19 December, 2003, 17:05 GMT
Women to judge Delhi's rape cases
Woman in Delhi
Women in Delhi feel unsafe to venture outdoors after dark
India's capital, Delhi, is to set up special courts to deal with cases of rape that will be prosecuted and judged by women.

The city's police argue that courts dedicated to crimes against women can deliver justice faster.

Delhi has a high rate of crime against women - over 300 cases of rape were filed last year.

Women's rights activists say the social stigma attached to victims prevents many coming forward with complaints.

Even fewer take their alleged attackers to court, they say.

Insensitivity

The new move will add to the three current special courts in the capital in which women judges deal with sexual harassment and dowry related offences.

A leading woman criminal lawyer in Delhi, Seema Gulati, said: "I am sure the victim will feel comfortable before a woman judge and a woman prosecutor."

However, others believed the appointment of women judges and prosecutors would have little effect.

Police spokesman Vivek Gogia discusses the rape
Police had to deal with the rape of a Swiss diplomat in October

"It is somewhat cynical to have women judges and women prosecutors," said the president of the Delhi State Bar Council, KC Mittal.

"The gender of the judge has no significance."

Male judges have in some cases been accused of insensitivity to alleged rape victims.

There were protests in the western city of Jaipur eight years ago against a court ruling that five upper caste Hindu men were unlikely to have raped a lower caste woman.

The five were cleared of the gang rape of the 43-year-old woman, who was campaigning against the traditional practice of child marriage in the state.

In another case in an undisclosed central Indian location, a court released a man accused of rape on the grounds that he was uninjured and therefore there was no evidence his seven-year-old victim had resisted.

Experts say the judge did not take into consideration that the girl had a ruptured hymen and bite marks on her body or statements of those who witnessed the alleged rape at a bus stop.

Diplomat raped

The minimum punishment for rape is seven years and a section of society is now demanding the death penalty for rapists.

In one high-profile case in Delhi in October a Swiss diplomat was raped in her car after attending a film festival.

On the same night an Indian woman film-maker suffered head injuries as she fought off attackers.

Those attacks came soon after the alleged rape of a woman by members of the presidential bodyguard.


VOTE RESULTS
Will special courts bring greater justice for women?
Yes
82%
No
18%
1006 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed


SEE ALSO:
Diplomat's rape shocks Delhi
17 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Fear stalks Delhi women
15 Oct 03  |  South Asia
India faces rape debate
24 Nov 02  |  South Asia
President's guards face rape inquiry
10 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Call for tougher Indian rape laws
12 Apr 00  |  South Asia


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