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A few amendments of the proposed Maharashtra Shakti Bill are anti-women and trivialize the crime against women. The clauses dealing with “Implied consent” and punitive measures against those who make a “false complaint are conservative and patriarchal. The proposed law in the present form has many faults and should not be passed in the current Assembly session.  

Many democratic and progressive women’s rights groups have issued a statement condemning the bill’s conservative aspects and the undemocratic process followed during its drafting.

“Enhancing the punishments for several crimes against women, particularly the heinous ones, and increasing the number of years of imprisonment or awarding the death penalty for them. It is proven by research that it is not simply the stringency of the law. Still, the certainty of being punished is a better deterrent. That stringent punishment is likely to give the accused the benefit of the doubt, especially in cases of the death penalty,” Kiran Moghe, All India Democratic Women’s Association, told Her News.

“The Bill seeks to ensure that cases will be settled within a period of two to three weeks. While this has no doubt been proposed with the noble intention of providing for speedy trials, we doubt whether it will be possible to conduct a proper and just investigation within such a short time. It is more likely that the already low rates of conviction will further decline due to these provisions, “said Manisha Gupte.

The statement says, ‘We believe that the 2013 amendments to the Criminal Law that resulted from the Verma Committee recommendations and the POCSO Act, 2012 are adequate to deal with the question of increasing violence against women, provided that they are properly implemented. We wish to point out that while suggesting changes in the law, the Verma Committee had equally emphasized and recommended reforms in the Criminal Justice System.’

It further says, ‘However, the Central and State governments have conveniently ignored this aspect. It includes a thorough and fundamental reform of the police, judiciary, and administrative machinery, strengthening the system, providing it with budgetary support, and a systematic social campaign for violence against women. Effecting changes in the law without simultaneously implementing these reforms reflect a simple approach that will have little impact in real terms.’

The statement also expresses its disappointment that the government did not consult with several progressive and democratic women’s organizations, lawyers, and researchers before drafting the law. The government did not share the draft in the public domain as well. The statement says it strongly condemn this undemocratic method of functioning of the state government.

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