Campus researchers find flaws in Indian government’s response to sexual violence

Angana Chatterji/Courtesy
Odisha: The destruction of Christian homes in Kandhamal District, Odisha, during December 2007, a precursor to the violence of 2008.

Related Posts

Campus researchers have concluded from a recent study that there is a need for change in the Indian government’s procedures for handling sexual violence cases.

Researchers in the UC Berkeley School of Law’s International Human Rights Law Clinic, or IHRLC, and the Haas School of Business’s Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project, or ACRes, conducted and published the study in October. Researchers analyzed sexual violence against women in India from a legal perspective and offered recommendations to remedy the issue.

According to co-author and ACRes co-chair Angana Chatterji, past studies have reported findings regarding individual cases, but this report takes a more comprehensive view. This study considers both protracted conflicts in the country and social upheavals.

According to the report, many women from a variety of circumstances all across India are especially vulnerable to sexual violence during these times of conflict and social upheaval. The report also said that women who have been subjected to sexual violence often cannot bring the perpetrators to justice because of a biased system that consists of organizations, politicians and state officials.

“The goal of the report is trying to put together puzzle pieces,” said Roxanna Altholz, a co-author and the associate director of the IHRLC.

The team looked at four sexual assault cases on women in the states of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, and Odisha.

According to Altholz, after looking at the four cases, the team used human rights and international law standards to analyze the Indian government’s methods of processing sexual violence cases.

Based on the discoveries in the study, the team formed recommendations that offer more protection for victims and witnesses, improve legislation for sexual violence cases and define sexual violence as “a crime of violence, rather than a crime against modesty.”

Although the report focuses on sexual violence against women, it acknowledges that it is a problem for people of all genders.

The report is part of a larger monograph — of which Chatterji is the lead editor — that also looks at sexual violence cases in India.

“I know of no other such thoroughly documented study that takes seriously the conditions and lack of healing remedies for LGBTQ subjects in contexts of political violence anywhere in the world,” said campus gender and women’s studies associate professor Paola Bacchetta in an email, about the monograph.

“We find that, despite some successes, ordinary Indian judicial mechanism are inadequate and have repeatedly failed in providing justice, accountability, and remedy, and that India urgently needs to develop transitional and transformative justice mechanism to address conflict and social upheaval,” Chatterji said in an email.

According to Chatterji, this monograph and the report are meant to help the survivor community.

“The people who have been living this reality day to day, their voices need to be acknowledged,” Chatterji said.

Contact Ericka Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Paola Bachetta’s quote, “I know of no other such thoroughly documented study that takes seriously the conditions and lack of healing remedies for LGBTQ subjects in contexts of political violence anywhere in the world,” was in reference to the report published in October. In fact, Bachetta was referring to a larger monograph, of which the October report is a part, that looks at sexual violence cases in India.