Gender, Sexual Violence, and Access to Justice in India

Ved Kumari

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When a victim lodges a crime with the police, they come with a set of outcome-oriented expectations. The perceived or actual sense of harm is real to the victim and they expect the criminal justice processes to understand and give recognition to their concerns. Thus, in a functioning democracy, access to justice is crucial and remains a key human right. Whilst access to justice can be challenging for many people, it is especially so for women due to persistent historical and ongoing gender inequality and power imbalances in society. This chapter deals with women victims’ access to justice in the context of India over the last 50 years or so. In particular, we focus on sexual violence to understand how the Indian Criminal Justice System has sought to respond in achieving gender-sensitive justice. Given the dearth of literature into gender, sexual violence, and access to justice, we explore how procedural justice theory and feminism can help understand the processes of access to justice. Sexual violence against women, the low rates of reporting, and access to justice remain important areas of concern across the globe. By focusing on the Indian jurisdiction as a case study, this chapter seeks to shed light on the situation of women as victims of sexual crime. To help explicate the historical trajectory, we utilise Baxi’s understanding of landmark cases as ‘laboratories for judicial reform.’ In doing this, we focus on two major cases – Mathura (1972) and Nirbhaya (2012) to sketch out key historical developments including procedural interventions by the legislature, how judiciary has widened its scope, and the ways in which the police as an arm of the CJS has intervened to deal with sexual crimes against women.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVictims' Access to Justice
EditorsPamela Cox, Sandra Walklate
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781003160830
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

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