Human rights challenges before political parties fighting state assembly elections in Karnataka

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Karnataka State Assembly Election 2018: A human rights charter for political parties prepared by Amnesty International India:

Amid mounting concerns about human rights issues across the country, Karnataka’s next government will face a range of challenges that will test its commitment to promoting justice, liberty, equality and dignity. Amnesty International India is asking political parties contesting the 2018 Karnataka state assembly election to adopt in their manifestos 6 key goals to improve Karnataka’s human rights record.

These issues are by no means exhaustive, and effective action will need collaboration with other relevant authorities, including the central government. Amnesty International India is asking political parties to uphold constitutional rights by:

  1. Protecting people’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy.
  2. Ending discrimination based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
  3. Ensuring justice for those who have faced rights abuses because of their caste or religion.
  4. Improving the functioning of the criminal justice system.
  5. Strengthening human rights institutions and protecting human rights defenders.
  6. Building a culture of respect for human rights through education.

Protecting people’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy:

  • Instruct the police department that it has a duty to protect all whistleblowers, journalists, artists, activists and others who face threats, harassment or violence for their speech.
  • Ensure that nobody faces prosecution merely for criticizing members of the government or government policies.
  • Introduce, through a state amendment, an explanation to section 124A (‘sedition’) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, to clarify that it only criminalizes speech which involves incitement to imminent violence or public disorder.
  • Ensure that the Aadhaar biometric ID project is not used to block access to essential services or benefits, or to violate people’s right to privacy.

Ending discrimination based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation:

  • Take concrete steps to prevent and address all forms of gender-based violence, including online violence and abuse and sexual harassment at workplaces.
  • Introduce a state amendment to Section 375 (‘rape’) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, to criminalize marital rape, by repealing the exception provision which states that sexual intercourse or acts by a man with his wife shall not constitute rape.
  • Instruct the police department that it has an obligation to protect women who report domestic violence, and to prevent further violence, including by conducting safety assessments and referring complainants to relevant protection officers, when required.
  • Introduce, through a state amendment, an explanation to Section 377 (‘unnatural offences’) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, to clarify that the section does not apply to cases of adult consensual same-sex relations.
  • Recognize transgender persons’ right to self-identification, and adopt affirmative action policies as directed by the Supreme Court.
  • Establish standard operating procedures for police personnel to deal with complaints of genderbased violence, and provide specialized training to government doctors, judges, and others working in the criminal justice system, to respect the rights and dignity of survivors of genderbased violence.

Ensuring justice for those who have faced human rights abuses because of their caste or religion:

  • Ensure the full and effective implementation of The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, including by providing training to district-level officials responsible for its enforcement, and holding accountable police officials who refuse to register complaints under the Act.
  • Ensure the full and effective implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, including by identifying people engaged in manual scavenging, providing them rehabilitation and access to alternative livelihoods, modernizing sanitation systems, and punishing officials responsible for employing manual scavengers.
  • Bring to justice anyone who advocates hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence, and investigate all attacks against people based on their identity, such as caste, religion, race and ethnicity.

Improving the functioning of the criminal justice system:

  • Take steps to reduce excessive undertrial detention, including by providing competent free legal aid to undertrials in poverty, allowing for non-custodial alternatives to detention, allowing non-monetary sureties to be considered by courts, fully implementing Sections 436 and 436A of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and strengthening oversight mechanisms.
  • Investigate all cases of alleged custodial torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners, and establish mechanisms to conduct inspections of all places of detention.
  • Repeal the Karnataka ‘Goondas Act’, 1985 and end all use of administrative detention, which circumvents fair trial safeguards.
  • Implement Supreme Court directives on police reform, including by making the recommendations of the Karnataka Police Complaint Authority binding on the state government, in order to ensure that police personnel are held accountable for human rights abuses.
  • Establish a comprehensive and adequately-resourced victim and witness protection mechanism.
  • Commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment.

Strengthening human rights institutions and protecting human rights defenders

  • Fill all vacancies in the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission and ensure that it has adequate human and financial resources.
  • Establish a comprehensive, adequately resourced protection programme for human rights defenders at the state level in conjunction with the State Human Rights Commission and National Human Rights Commission.

Building a culture of respect for human rights in education:

  • Integrate human rights education into school education, and ensure that private and public schools respect human rights in curricular and co-curricular activities, in the school environment, and in school governance.
  • Integrate human rights education into training courses for school and university teachers.
  • Ensure the full implementation of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

2 thoughts on “Human rights challenges before political parties fighting state assembly elections in Karnataka

  1. The condition of human rights in the country, especially in states like Chattisgarh and Jharkhand and Orissa is appalling. The Amnesty International has rightly expressed concern over the pathetic state. Since elections are due in some states, people should exert pressure on political parties to address human rights and civil liberties issues prominently during campaigns

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