A look back on : Women’s Rights achievements of 2017 | Sunday Observer

A look back on : Women’s Rights achievements of 2017

The year 2017 has come to an end. Another circle around the sun has been completed by us. Looking back, one may say, the justice system has acted in favour of the vulnerable minorities of society such as, women and the girl child. The Minister of Justice, who is also a woman, has taken a number of initiatives to make the institutions of law enforcement and justice more gender sensitive. Not only in Sri Lanka, the black letter law all over the world was changed for the betterment of women and the girl child. Let us reminisce once more what our society has achieved collectively to dawn a better future for them.

The Jaffna rape case

The culprits of the rape and murder of Vidya in Jaffna were duly punished in the courts this year. Sivaloganathan Vidya was brutally tortured and raped, and ultimately killed by a gang of men, nine of whom were brought to justice after intense investigations. On September 27, seven of these men were imposed with capital punishment, by a three-bench panel of judges. Despite the lack of efficiency in our justice system in general, the verdict was given after a trial period of four months. “Vidya may not be alive anymore,” said the media. “But justice is very much alive”.

The Nirbhaya judgment

The heart wrenching rape and murder of Nirbhaya in Delhi last year was finally met with justice this year. Jyothi Pandey, known as Nirbhaya (Fearless) was gang-raped and tortured in a moving bus in New Delhi, one night in December, 2013. Boosted by a surge of protests conducted by activists, the Supreme Court of India ordered four of the six culprits to be hanged to death. The juvenile justice laws of India were also amended and new legislation brought in to pave the way to enable the law to produce in courts, minors of 16 years of age and above, as adults.

The Indian Supreme Court delivered a number of progressive judgements during this year, such as, declaring “Triple Talaq” i.e. divorcing Muslim wives by uttering the word Talaq thrice, to be unconstitutional and invalid, and amending laws on marital rape, by re-interpreting child marriage as rape. Given the cultural and religious foundation on which the Indian society has been built, these judgements can be identified as a victory, not only for Indian women, but also for women of the Asian Continent, as a whole.

Awaiting answers

The Madras High Court has recently given an order for a report to be submitted in January 2018, seeking answers for the rising levels of sexual violence against women. The report will analyze whether the rise of sexual violence in India is due to the “sexual starvation” among men, in view of various cultural, religious, ethical and moral prohibitions inflicted upon them. It will also analyze whether the fall in the sex ratio and the rise of alcohol consumption, increasing availability of pornographic material as well as female infanticide has had an impact on the rise of sexual violence throughout the country. The judiciary awaits the answers, and will take necessary steps to mitigate the negative repercussions of these reasons.

Where are we?

The world has lit their eyes towards achieving gender justice. Men and women from the LGBT community are also making their way towards society without the fear of being judged. This is actually a very satisfactory situation. People are keen on knowing the law and their Rights. Women are not planning on sitting in a corner while the world develops. They insist on achieving what they deserve in society. The new Minister of Justice has declared that the Ministry has made all plans to duly amend the laws on marital rape, making it an offence punishable by law. People lose faith in the justice system due to its delays, which will be hopefully rectified in the future. With all these steps being taken, the women and girl child of the country can have hopes on a better tomorrow.

Yet, lacunae in the law are found a dime a dozen. It is the duty of the authorities to identify and rectify them. We are yet to adjust according to the changes taking place around the world. Our attitudes that are inculcated within us should be changed. Hence, we must realize the fact that changing the wordings in the law will not suffice.

The ‘Vendom’ incident

A Smart condom vending machine named, the “Vendom” was established by the Family Planning Association this year. It was an initiative taken for the betterment of sexual health of the citizenry. Despite the bona fide intention behind it, the Vendom was subjected to many criticisms. It is this that we need to positively change. People are not yet open to concepts such as, the Vendom. The aim of introducing such novel instruments is to enhance the knowledge and understanding among the public about safe sexual practices. But, without the cooperation of the public, all these efforts will be like seeds thrown on barren soil. It is high time we collectively understand the necessity to promote and maintain the good efforts taken, as such necessity is felt now more than ever.

Lessons for 2018

It is never too late to make a positive change. The new year is almost here, and no time is more suitable for it than now. All these experiences should be seen as lessons learnt in 2017. National, regional and international platforms are being assembled for the betterment of women and the girl child. It is our duty to make sure that all such efforts are not wasted in vain. The day we accept the reality and take measures to make their tomorrow better, the nation will thrive and flourish, and set upon a better journey towards all, embracing success. 

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