The pandemic is leaving an impact on all of us, in every facet of our lives. For some people, the impact has been harsher, as a result of their economic status, social identities, and life circumstances. Such groups require state support and targeted interventions. Survivors of sexual violence are one such group. However, their needs have not been adequately addressed in the past few months.

There is an urgent need to carry out a comprehensive inquiry into the functioning of the criminal justice system, and survivors’ experiences in accessing the same, during and following the lockdown. Collective determination on the way forward is crucial to develop detailed guidelines and standard operating procedures to deal with cases in the next phases of the pandemic. Learning from the current crisis and the developing standardised protocols will also ensure the smooth functioning of the criminal justice system in future emergencies. Failing to do so will be another travesty of justice.

It is imperative that we urgently work towards remedying systemic failures and revamping the crisis-stricken criminal justice and public health systems. This will help safeguard survivors’ access to justice and well-being in both the long-term and in future crisis situations.

Here are some recommendations for the way forward:

  1. Mobilise women’s collectives and networks
  2. Create referral pathways by mobilising local networks
  3. Use technology as a tool for communication
  4. Focus on child protection services and monitoring institutions
  5. Focus on non-negotiable implementation of the POSH Act
  6. Ensure complete functionality of OSCs
  7. Immediate constitution of a high-level independent national commission

Read the full article about helping survivors of sexual assault by Aarya Venugopa at India Development Review.