PROMINENT ACTIVISTS, lawyers, women’s organisations and academicians Saturday wrote a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray voicing their opposition to the two bills — Maharashtra Shakti Bill, 2020, and the Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law, 2020 — and urging him not to table the bills in the two-day Winter Session starting Monday.
The letter that has 92 signatories stated, “We are shocked that such a draconian legislation is being introduced in the name of curbing widespread violence against women and girls. Some provisions are not only anti-women, but negate the very offence of rape. The effect of this Bill will completely deny women any hope of justice. Hence, we are addressing this letter requesting you to not table the Bill till there is a larger consultation with activists, lawyers and academicians working on these issues.”
Approved by the state cabinet on December 9, the bills are expected to tabled during the winter session of the legislature. In December 2019, the Maharashtra government announced it will enact a law on the lines of the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act with a provision of death penalty for rape instead of the current punishment of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment.
“To include death penalty will be counterproductive to women and contrary to the statement and object of the law…. women and child rights activists and scholars have repeatedly stated that the death penalty reduces the already abysmal conviction rates as well as the rates of reporting in cases of sexual offences…,” the letter, whose signatories included senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising and several activists and organisations from Mumbai, Pune and Delhi, added.
Women’s rights lawyer Veena Gowda said, “This (Bill) is draconian and not progressive at all. It’s a misplaced, protectionist, patriarchal solution to women’s rights. I wish they had consulted us before drafting the Bill..”
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