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Law Commission chairman Justice Jeevan Reddy
We are trying to bring about more sensitivity towards sexual assaults
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Call for tougher Indian rape laws
Indian women
Statistics show that one Indian women is raped every hour
By Daniel Lak in Delhi

A report from India's Law Commission has called for sweeping changes to the country's rape laws after an increase in the incidence of sexual violence.

The report, which focuses on abuse within families, calls for rape and sexual assault cases to be tried in special courts.

Statistics on rape and child sexual abuse in India are just beginning to emerge, and they paint a grim picture.

The Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development says that on average one woman is raped every hour in the country.

Fourteen wives were murdered by their husbands' families every day.

Women's campaign

The call by the Law Commission for sweeping changes in laws against family violence is part of growing pressure for change in an alarming situation.

Women's groups say deeply conservative attitudes about sex and privacy within families have all contributed to making India's rape laws brutally ineffective.

Victims of rape must prove in court they have been sexually penetrated by a rapist, otherwise lesser charges will be filed.

Ostracised

Even then, few women or children would want to be exposed to the ordeal of testimony in open court that is required for a conviction.

A raped woman is often cast out from her family or community.

The Law Commission said special courts should be set up to try rape and abuse cases, where the needs of victims should be paramount.

Welcoming the Law Commission's call, a leading women's rights campaigner said changing legislation was only the beginning.

Far more crucial, she said, was a change in the widely held traditional view of women in Indian society.

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See also:

24 Nov 99 | South Asia
Wives abused in India
16 Nov 99 | South Asia
Campaign to save girl babies
22 Dec 99 | South Asia
India to introduce women's quota bill
27 Sep 99 | South Asia
Woman power in India's villages
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