A new report of the committee, headed by Justice Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari and tasked with making recommendations for women’s safety, was recently submitted to the home department.
The report said: “There is a need to stop exploitation of women through their religious conversion by luring them with false promises of marriage. For this there is a need to come out with a law. Number of such cases is growing wherein women are being raped by making false promises of marriage or by forcing religious conversions on them.”
The latest report contained a new set of guidelines.
The report said: “Any conversion by force or by luring someone is absolutely illegal. There is a law in states such as MP and Orrisa, where such conversions are banned. In the backdrop of growing such incidents we recommend state to frame a new law.”
Officials in the government said the recommendations had come against the backdrop of the recent controversy over “love jihad”, a concept defined as making women fall in love with men with the intention of adding converts to a religion.
The panel said: “There should also be a stern law to punish those who take to drinking during the course of official work and that there should be separate machinery to handle crimes against women.”
It also recommended a law to hand over farmland jointly to husband and wife. It demanded modernization of forensic laboratories to ensure speedy justice to women in cases involving sexual assaults.
Now it is to be seen whether the government acts on these guidelines. Before now, the government fumbled on several occasions when the Bombay high court asked it when it would implement the Dharmadhikari committee’s suggestions.
The government had kept asking for time to implement the suggestions in the report as it wanted to “consult experts”.
The Dharmadhikari committee also proposed the implementation of some recommendations of a committee headed by Justice Verma, a former Supreme Court judge. Among Verma’s recommendations was one where people who do not make efforts to stop atrocities against women or rape be punished and that no gender bias should exist while registering such an offence.
The Dharmadhikari committee upheld the Verma committee recommendation that appointments to higher police ranks be made considering an official’s ethical background.
Dr Rani Bang, a member of the Dharamadhikari committee, emphasized the need to formulate a law and constitute vigilance committees to avoid the exploitation of poor and slum women in the name of surrogate motherhood.She opposed the extension of the limit for abortion to over five months.
Some of the other recommendations included mandatory display of helpline numbers for women at public places and concerted efforts to keep nudity out of films.