Women’s safety at stake as court directives ignored

FAILURE by authorities to comply with High Court directives issued over the years to ensure the safety and security of women has added to the ongoing violence against women. The court issued a number of directives aimed at making society, home and work safer for women, but the authorities concerned seem to have turned a deaf ear to them. The High Court issued 18 directives on February 16, 2016, asking the authorities to ensure immediate registration of cases of rape or sexual assault by the police, to open a dedicated website to allow victims to file complaints online , to have a national call center for wider dissemination of information on violence against women and children, to delegate a police officer to each police station to deal with these cases, to escort victims to the hospital for medical examinations, operate victim support centers, sanction investigators for failure to collect medical reports or delays in transporting victims to hospital and more. On December 5 of the same year, the court also issued seven directives asking judges to complete the trial of cases of rape and violence against women and children within 180 days, as required by law.

The court, in the same order, also requested the government to set up a monitoring committee in each district to ensure the presence of witnesses and their safety during the trials and said that the committee would be responsible for the incapacity of the witness. State to produce a witness before the courts within the prescribed time. days while the courts would recommend departmental action against official witnesses such as magistrates, police personnel, doctors and other experts if they failed to appear in court without satisfactory reasons and order the payment of their salaries to be stopped , if deemed necessary. In another important verdict on July 18, 2019, the court ordered the government to formulate a law to protect witnesses. On April 16, 2018, the court banned the use of the unscientific “two-finger test” of rape victims while in an earlier verdict in 2009, the government ordered authorities from all government and private organizations to train sexual harassment complaint committees at educational institutions and workplaces. All of these guidelines have, as women’s rights activists say, been mostly observed in cases of non-compliance, putting women’s safety and security at stake. Even when the court on October 21, 2020 asked the government to submit a report on the progress of the implementation of its directives in three months, the defendants did not submit any report.

Failure to comply with High Court directives not only violates the constitutional obligation of all authorities which under Sections 111 and 112 are required to implement all High Court directives, but also jeopardizes the lives of women. The authorities concerned must therefore comply with the directives of the courts to ensure the safety of the women. The government must also ensure equal participation of women in all spheres, especially the economy and political leadership, to register gender-neutral development and fulfill its promises to ensure women’s empowerment and emancipation.

Mara R. Wilmoth