Report in, action awaited
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But the committee' s suggestion, driven no doubt by a sense of urgency, to push its recommendations through the ordinance route will not work. It is Parliament, with all its weaknesses, which will have to debate and finally adopt the amendments suggested in the report. It is the responsibility of the ruling alliance to take forward these reform agendas in Parliament, including the welcome, radical analysis of the Verma report on women's sexual autonomy, which it links with recommendations to prohibit the dictates of khap panchayats against self-choice partnerships, to recognise marital rape as a crime, and to support the rights of gay and transgender communities. It is equally important for public representatives to understand the committee's emphasis on changing social attitudes to women, including prevailing concepts of masculinity linked to aggressive misogynistic behaviour. Son-preferring cultures, which dominate the upbringing of children, need to be challenged and changed by the inclusion of relevant curricula in schools and colleges.
The report also makes a scathing indictment of the hypocritical stance of blaming the victim and pushing her into a shame/ honour trap — the victim's shame and her community's/ family's honour being defiled, thus further intensifying mental violence on her. It criticises and names political leaders across the spectrum who have made sexist and demeaning comments. This section of the report at least should be compulsory reading for all elected representatives.
Today, the only lobbies to be seen in the corridors of power are the corporate lobbies. The voices on the street are heard but faintly by those in high office. The nationwide protests showed the potential to change this. Justice Verma and his equally eminent colleague, Justice Leila Seth, and former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium have given the country an instrument to take that struggle forward. The country must force a reluctant government to act.