Between void and voidable, scope for greater protection for girl child: (Indian Express, Editorial)
- The recent Supreme Court verdict provides short term relief to the female victims of early marriage.
What is the verdict?
- The verdict says that a man who has sex with a wife less than 18 years can be charged of rape.
- The judgment made rape laws consistent with The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, The Juvenile Justice Act, and The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), all of which recognize 18 years as the age of consent for a girl.
What is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012?
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
- The Act defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography.
- The Act also casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process
- The Act further makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimisation of the child at the hands of the judicial system.
- It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child, in a manner that is as child-friendly as possible.
- Above all, the Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
What is the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015?
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act has been passed by Parliament of India in 2015.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 applies whenever the person accused of committing a crime is a child.
- It is also applied to vulnerable children who need the government to take care of them.
- And also for such children who need help with getting a better and fulfilling life, the law provides for a number of mechanisms (including adoption, sponsorship and foster care).
What is the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006?
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 came into force on 1st November, 2007.
- The objective of the Act is to prohibit solemnization of child marriage and connected and incidental matters.
- To ensure that child marriage is eradicated from within the society, the Government of India enacted Prevention of Child marriage Act 2006 by replacing the earlier legislation of Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929.
- This new Act is armed with enabling provisions to prohibit for child marriage, protect and provide relief to victim and enhance punishment for those who abet, promote or solemnize such marriage.
Marriage for girls: in the Indian context:
- Today, the decline in child marriage is hardly impressive.
- For, census data shows the continued prevalence of child marriage.
- For example, in states as different as Bengal and Rajasthan, marriage of girls as young as 14 is far from rare.
Reason for child marriage in India:
- Poverty and marriage expenses such as dowry may lead a family to marry off their daughter at a young age to reduce these costs.
- Poor educational opportunities for girls, especially in rural areas increase the vulnerability of a girl child to be married off early.
- One of the leading causes of early marriage is the over-emphasized fertility rate.
- Societies such as India’s, specific roles are assigned to women traditionally and such societies tend to facilitate these through practices like early marriage which reinforce prescribed gender roles.
What is marital rape?
- Marital rape or spousal rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the consent of the other spouse.
- It is a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Is marital rape as a law being misused?
- Marital rape is difficult, practically impossible to prove or disprove.
- There are several questions that remain unanswered by those demanding a new law to deal specifically with marital rape.
- As to what constitutes marital rape and what would constitute marital non-rape needs to be defined precisely before a view on its criminalization is taken.
- If all sexual acts by a man with his wife will qualify to be marital rape, then the judgment as to whether it is a marital rape or not will singularly rest with the wife.
What is the way ahead?
- The Indian society needs to upgrade itself with some concrete educational schemes for women in particular.
- The society also needs to change its patriarchal outlook for women and their marriage parameters.
- The issue of child marriage by large still remains open as the court refrained from dealing with the issue of marital rape of a woman aged above 18.
- The SC verdict on marital rape focused solitarily on married women below the age of 18.Thus a large part of marital rape law is still open.
- The government authorities need to ensure that child marriage is abolished at all cost.
- The Supreme Court recently enquired about the existence of State Commissions for Women (SCW).
What is the Supreme Court’s recent call on widows?
- The Supreme Court makes it clear that if State Commissions for Women (SCW) did not exist in the States, then the State governments concerned should be asked to ensure setting up of such panels.
- Also, the Center would provide an affidavit, which contains several steps required to be taken to improve the situation of the destitute widows.
What is National Commission for Women (NCW)?
- The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body of the Government of India.
- It was established in January 1992 under the provisions of the Indian Constitution, as defined in the 1990 National Commission for Women Act.
- The objective of the NCW is to represent the rights of women in India and to provide a voice for their issues and concerns.
- It is also concerned with advising the government on all policy matters affecting women.
- Dowry, politics, religion, equal representation for women in jobs, and the exploitation of women for labour are their prime subjects.
What is State Commissions for Women (SCW)?
- State Commissions for Women is operated at the State level.
- These are governmental bodies to protect and promote the rights of women in their respective States.
- State Commissions for Women have been endowed with the powers to protect and promote women’s rights throughout the State and especially in situations where women are in need of help of these Commissions.
What are the constitutional rights for women in India?
- The following are the constitutional rights for women in India:
- The state shall not discriminate against any citizen of India on the ground of sex [Article 15(1)].
- The state is empowered to make any special provision for women. In other words, this provision enables the state to make affirmative discrimination in favour of women [Article 15(3)].
- No citizen shall be discriminated against or be ineligible for any employment or office under the state on the ground of sex [Article 16(2)].
- Traffic in human beings and forced labour are prohibited [Article 23(1)].
- The state to secure for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood [Article 39(a)].
- The state to secure equal pay for equal work for both Indian men and women [Article 39(d)].
- The state is required to ensure that the health and strength of women workers are not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their strength [Article 39(e)].
- The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief [Article 42].
- It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women [Article 51-A(e)].
- One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat shall be reserved for women [Article 243-D(3)].
- One-third of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women [Article 243-D(4)].
- One-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women [Article 243-T(3)].
- The offices of chairpersons in the Municipalities shall be reserved for women in such manner as the State Legislature may provide [Article 243-T(4)].
What are the recent government initiatives for widows in India?
- The Supreme Court asked the Centre to frame scheme to promote widow remarriage and bring them in mainstream society.
- The court also asked the Centre to update its National Policy for Empowerment of Women.
- And also make provision to impart training to widows so that they become competent enough to earn themselves instead of depending on grants.
- The government has been setting up to come up with a plan to rehabilitate the hapless widows of Vrindavan and other ashrams by November 30, 2017.
What are the measures to be taken?
- Society: The real voice for change must come from within the society.
- Superstition: There should be a change of the superstitious mindset that deprives widows of their right to live.
- Welfare Schemes: Economic problems should be addressed to some extent by formulating welfare schemes for widows.
- Law enforcement: The Center must try strict enforcement of the laws that already exist to ensure women’s rights.
- Education: Education should be the driving force to eliminate ignorance and hardships of the widows in India and worldwide.
What is the status of women in India in the present day context?
- The modern women are inclined towards the social issues, and trying hard to improve the social status of women at large.
- But a majority is still under privileged. The areas to be taken care of are:
- In all agricultural activities there is an average gender wage disparity, with women earning only 70 percent of men’s wage or work as unpaid subsistence labor.
- Only after the amendment on September 9, 2005 daughters in India got equal rights to the ancestral property; but it will take time before the society is able to accept the new norms completely.
- Widows in India still face the basic rights for existence, inheritance rights, untouchability, social confinement and lead of life of abstinence.
- The Sabarimala temple has restrictions on the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years in the shrine because women of menstruating age can’t be allowed on account of religious believes.
The Bhitarakanika National Park situated in Odisha’s Kendrapara district sees an increase in number of visitors during September, considered an off-season.
National parks in India:
- National parks in India are IUCN category II protected ares.
- India’s first national park was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, now known as Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand.
- In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard the habitats of conservation reliant species.
- As of July 2017, there were 103 national parks
- According to the Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests, a national park is an area, whether within a sanctuary or not, that can be notified by the state government to be constituted as a National Park, by reason of its ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, or zoological association or importance, needed to for the purpose of protecting & propagating or developing wildlife therein or its environment.
- No human activity is permitted inside the national park
- National park is an area which is strictly reserved for the betterment of the wildlife & biodiversity, and where activities like developmental, forestry, poaching, hunting and grazing on cultivation are not permitted.
The term ‘National Park’ should denote an area:
- which is, set aside for the protection and conservation of outstanding natural fauna, flora, geological formations and natural scenic;
- in which hunting, killing or capturing of fauna, or deprivation of any wild animal of its habitat, or destruction and collection of flora, and weapons are all prohibited except for the improvement and a better management of wildlife therein, and on condition that these issues are handled by, or are under the control of, the park authorities;
- where also, grazing [of any live-stock] shall not be permitted.
- No alteration of the boundaries of a National Park shall be made except on the resolution passed by the legislature of the State (Wildlife Protection Society of India, 2003., Thane Riney, 1982).
About Bhitarakanika National Park:
- Bhitarkanika National Park is a national park located in Kendrapara district of Odisha in eastern India.
- The national park is surrounded by the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Gahirmatha Beach and Marine Sanctuary lies to the east, and separates swamp region cover with canopy of mangroves from the Bay of Bengal . Thus it become a vicinity of rich biodiversity.
- The national park was created in September 1998 from the core area of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, which was created in 1975. The sanctuary is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India.
- The national park and wildlife sanctuary is inundated by a number of rivers – Brahmani, Baitarni, Dhamra, Pathsala and others
It has much significance with regard to ecological, geomorphological and biological background which includes mangrove forests, rivers, creeks, estuaries, back water, accreted land and mud flats. Bhitarkanika National Park is the core area of Bhitarkanika Sanctuary.
Flora and fauna:
Flora: Mangroves, trees like sundari, thespia, casuarinas, and grasses like the indigo bush, and more.
- The park is home to Saltwater Crocodile, White Crocodile, and Indian python. King Cobra, black ibis, and many other species of flora and fauna.
- Bhitarakanika continues to be one of the best natural abode for the estuarine crocodile
- Apart from crocodiles, meandering water courses flanked by green mangrove forests and migratory birds flocking in search of prey in the swampy fields of Bhitarakanika are some of the major attractions
- The forest department has come across 80 crocodile nests in their wild habitats in 2017 compared to 75 in 2016 and 70 in 2015.
- According to the National Park authorities, mammals found in the place include leopards, wild boars, fishing cats, hyenas, sambar deer and Gangetic dolphins.
- Reptiles include olive ridley sea turtles, crocodiles, water monitors, pythons and king cobras.
- Around 166 species of birds have been spotted in the park
- Bhitarakanika is one of the richest storehouses of mangrove genes.
- Researchers have come across 11 of the 70 mangrove species in Bhitarakanika which were at an elevated threat of extinction around the world.
- Within the Bhitarkanika Forest Block near Suajore creek from the month of June to October. Most of the Birds are Asian open bill. Egrets. Black Ibis, Cormorants, Darters & etc.
Mangroves and wildlife:
- Mangroves are salt tolerant, complex and dynamic eco-systems that occur in tropical and subtropical inter-tidal regions.
- Bhitarkanika is one such location of rich, lush green vibrant eco-system lying in the estuarine region of Brahmani
About Mangrove forests in India:
- A mangrove is a shrub or small tree that grows in coastal saline or brackish water .The term is also used for tropical coastal vegetation consisting of such species. Mangroves occur worldwide in the tropics and subtropics , mainly between latitudes 25° N and 25° S
- Mangroves are salt tolerant trees, also called halophytes , and are adapted to life in harsh coastal conditions.
- They contain a complex salt filtration system and complex root system to cope with salt water immersion and wave action.
- They are adapted to the low oxygen (anoxic) conditions of waterlogged mud.
Locations in India:
- Sundarbans Mangroves: The Great Sundarbans, the largest mangroves region in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world, covering parts of Bangladesh’s Khulna Division and the Indian State of West Bengal.
- The deltas of the Ganges, Mahanadi, Krishna, Godavari and Kaveri rivers are known to contain mangrove forests.
- Bhitarkanika Mangroves: Mangroves is India’s second largest forest, located in the state of Odisha. Bhitarkanika is created by the two river deltas of Brahmani and Baitarani river and one of the important Ramsar Wetland in India.
- The Godavari-Krishna mangroves lies in the delta of the Godavari and Krishna rivers in the state of Andhra Pradesh Mangroves ecoregion is under protection for Calimere Wildlife and Pulicate Lake Bird Sanctuary
- Pichavaram Mangroves: Pichavram mangrove is the world’s second largest mangrove forest, situated at Pichavaram near Chidambaram in the state of Tamil Nadu. Pichavaram ranks amongst one of the most exquisite scenic spots in Tamil Nadu and home of many species of aquatic bird
- Baratang Island Mangroves: located at Great Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Significance of Mangroves in India:
- It acts as a shield and protect the coastal inhabitants from tsunamis, storms, cyclones, high waves etc
- It acts as a binding agent for soil and prevent soil erosion
- It provides a live support system to coastal inhabitants.
- It acts as a breeding ground for diverse wildlife.
- It plays a critical role in nutrient recycling, and in purification of water.
Air pollution affects all stages of life, starting from preconception to old age.
- A combination of festivals, post-harvest crop burning, firing of bricks kilns and reduced wind speed will soon increase the level of particulate air pollution in India.
- According to the Global Burden of Disease study estimates, in India, ambient air pollution is responsible for premature deaths every day.
Pollution in India:
- Half of the top 20 polluted cities in the world are in India.
- India has seen the steepest increase in air pollution since 2010.
- Although China achieved global notoriety some years ago, it is India that has experienced a nearly 150 per cent increase in ozone-attributable deaths over the past 25 years.
- In comparison, the number of people who died due to diseases caused by pollution in China did not increase much in the same period.
The Lancet Commission on pollution and health.
- Recent Reports of the Lancet Commission on pollution and health concluded that deaths in India occur mostly because of pollution
- With 2.51 million deaths in 2015, India has been ranked No. 1 in pollution related deaths, according to a report by
- India accounted for about 28 per cent of an estimated nine million pollution linked deaths worldwide in 2015.
- In the case of air pollution, the number of deaths in India from ambient air pollution is at the first place i.e. 1.09 million.
- The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health is a two-year project that has involved more than 40 international health and environmental authors.
- The Lancet Commission on pollution and health addresses the health and economic costs of air, water, and soil pollution.
- Through analyses of existing and emerging data, the Commission reveals pollution’s severe and underreported contribution to the Global Burden of Disease.
- It uncovers the economic costs of pollution to low-income and middle-income countries.
- The Commission informs key decision makers around the world about the burden that pollution places on health and economic development, and about available cost-effective pollution control solutions and strategies.
Effects of air pollution:
On Human health:
- Almost all air pollution-related deaths were thought to be due to lung diseases.
- It causes diseases like heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cancer.
- The studies have shown that ultrafine particulate matter, which accounts for over 90 per cent of the particles emitted by road traffic, rapidly enters the bloodstream after being inhaled.
- These particles then interfere with the normal reactivity of blood vessels, and are distributed to many organs including the kidneys.
- The air pollution reduces the number of years lived in full health by aggravating asthma attacks, eye and skin disorders, and increasing the risk of development of high blood pressure, obesity, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorder and frailty.
- Exposure of a mother while pregnant causes abnormalities that increase the lifetime risk of chronic diseases in the baby.
- Deaths from air pollution were a result of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Pollution has been responsible for the most non-communicable disease deaths.
- On the positive side, remedial measures have shown reduction in the number of individuals with adverse outcomes, including improved life expectancy in several parts of the world.
- Policy interventions before the Beijing Olympics in China led to significant reduction in pollution. This is reflected in significant improvement in people’s physiology.
What are the recent steps taken by government to reduce pollution in India?
- The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- Namami Gange Project: Under the project, the Government is planning to make the areas around the river Open Defecation Free and to achieve Zero Liquid Discharge into the river.
- Smart Cities Mission and AMRUT project: Under these, the Government is planning to achieve 100 per cent sewage collection and its treatment before being discharged in river.
- Promotion of renewable energy, enforcement of Renewable Purchase Obligations and Renewable Generation Obligations to increase the share of renewable energy in total generation capacity.
- The Government has decided to enforce Bharat Stage VI norms from 2020.
- Furthermore, the Ministry of Roadways has undertaken the project to plant trees along the all major highways.
What are measures to be taken?
- This Lancet Commission should inform policy makers and serve as a timely call to action.
- The country must prioritize pollution as an issue that affects all.
- Integrating pollution into health planning, and increasing funding to allow more research into pollution, such as monitoring pollution and its effects, and developing are some of the other ways to control pollution.
- Human activities, including industrialisation, urbanisation, and globalisation, are all drivers of pollution. Thus, strict legal initiatives actions are to be taken.
- There is also need for better urban planning starting with proper land-use assessment, reducing major transport activity close to communities, relocating traffic sources from crowded areas, avoiding the mixing of industrial and residential areas, making better roads, reducing uncovered areas in cities by planting more grass and plants, improving transport technologies, and increasing awareness of the societal burden imposed by air pollution.
- Interdisciplinary academic groups like experts in toxicology, environmental health, analytical chemistry, applied physics, healthcare researchers, economist and social scientists should evaluate the full range of impacts of air pollution on human health.
- After consecutive disasters by climate change, any further delay in reducing emissions would put at risk many more lives, livelihoods and investments for decades to come.
What is global warming? What are its causes?
- Global warming, also referred to as climate change, is the observed century-scale rise in the average temperature of the earth’s climate system and its related effects.
- The primary reason for global warming is the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, factories and electricity production.
- Other factors include methane released from landfills and agriculture (especially from the digestive systems of grazing animals), nitrous oxide from fertilizers, gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes.
- The loss of forests adds on to global warming at a large scale that would otherwise store CO2.
What are Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)?
- There are many chemicals and compounds found on Earth that help in balancing and stabilizing the temperature. These are called green house gases.
- The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.
- When ultraviolet rays from the sun travel to the Earth, they are absorbed by these greenhouse gases and therefore these ultra violet rays are not capable of reaching the Earth’s surface.
What is the Paris climate agreement?
- It is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
- The objective is to limit global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
- For which, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to be cut by an estimated 40-70 percent by 2050, and by 2100 the planet must be carbon-neutral.
- Under the Paris accord, each country must submit its own plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and address the impact of climate change.
How is India affected by climate change?
- A study on the impact of climate change by the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, shows countries in the tropics will be the worst affected as a result of global warming.
- India is one of the most affected ones, with its per capita output expected to fall by 1.33 percentage points.
- As a result, majority of the people of India continue to live in poverty, with malnutrition and diseases corroding the society.
- Because of global warming, when there is a loss of output and lower productivity affects capital formation of the country.
- Lower productivity also poses a significant threat to the food security situation in India.
- Moreover, unabated global warming leads to exacerbation of the droughts, cutting down the water availability.
- Global warming has lead to ocean acidification. When sea water reacts with carbon dioxide it creates carbonic acid and therefore acidifies the sea.
- Unprecedented floods take place every year at one place or the other, with the most vulnerable states of India.
What are the necessary measures to be taken to safeguard from the losses of global warming?
- Steps should be taken at both the individual country level and the global level.
- To prevent economic imbalance, emerging market and low-income economies will have to build significant macroeconomic resilience.
- Programmes are to be initiated that will help improve the quality of land and reduce the risk of climate change.
- There is a need for better agricultural practices that leave carbon in the ground, use of biochar, undertaking afforestation and reforestation.
- Methods and technologies are to be introduced so that the country can reduce its dependence on the monsoon.
- Better policies are needed to support practices that successfully keep carbon in the ground, prevent deforestation, support agricultural practice that sequesters carbon and promote sustainable land use practices that reduce emissions.
- Apart from framing policies, there should be strict enforcement of these laws.
- The Ministry of Railways knocks Finance Ministry’s door to contribute its share towards the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Rosh (RRSK) as the public utility is staring at an earnings shortfall
What is the concern?
- The Indian railways have utilized a quarter of the safety fund
- It has spent Rs 5,031 crore from the RRSK in the first six months of the current year.
- Railways sundry earnings had declined sharply by 35.7% during this period.
- Income from non-fare revenues, including land lease, advertising, PSU dividends and catering department, form part of the sundry earnings.
What is the need of safety funds in railways?
- Railway accidents not only lead to immense loss of lives and property, but also impact the psyche of general public for whom railways is a primary mode of transport.
- Rail accident does not merely involve damage to rail infrastructure alone.
- There is a huge cost to society as well, society pays dearly through lost lives, lost livelihood, loss of productivity, disability, medical expenses, disruption of traffic, loss of the wagons etc.
- The highest cost is the loss of passenger confidence which may translate into loss of revenue in future for the railways.
- The world’s fourth-largest rail network ferries millions of passengers every day, but doesn’t have a good safety record.
- In the last three years, at least 650 people have died in train accidents.
What is RRSK?
- Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Rosh (RRSK) is a dedicated fund for critical safety-related works.
- In the budget 2017 – 18, ministry had announced the setting up a special safety fund with an amount of more than Rs. 1 lakh crore over a period of five years.
- Indian Railways will hire close to 200,000 workers over the next few years in a recruitment drive aimed at strengthening its safety and ground patrolling divisions.
What is the purpose of creating RRSK?
- The fundamental purpose of creating RRSK is to ensure funds for implementing Safety works on Railways.
- A decongested network is prone to accidents due to limited margin for error and hence decongesting such network enhances railway safety.
Increase in fares
- Railways have decided to increase passenger fares for raising its resources in order to create a special fund.
- A safety cess will be levied to generate funds for strengthening track and upgrading signalling system and elimination of unmanned level crossings among other safety-related works to prevent mishaps.
- According to the plan, the cess on Sleeper, Second Class and AC-3 will be higher while it will be marginal for AC-2 and AC-1.
- With earnings deficit, the Ministry of Railways may find it difficult to contribute its share towards the newly- constituted Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Rosh (RRSK) – a dedicated fund for critical safety-related works.