India has proposed that only women judges try rape cases to help sexual assault victims get justice faster and make trials sensitive to their trauma, a law ministry spokesman said.
The proposal, a bill which has to be passed by parliament, was approved at a cabinet meeting late on Thursday, S.M. Kumar said.
Women’s groups and rights activists have for long campaigned for reforming the judicial process that deals with sexual assault in a country where a woman is raped every 29 minutes.
The national capital, New Delhi, is the most unsafe Indian city for women, accounting for 30 percent of rapes, according to government data.
"This is a very positive step and will help get justice for the rape victim," said Girija Vyas, chairwoman of the National Women’s’ Commission.
"Until now, male lawyers were able to threaten the victim and scare her. A woman judge will help build a sensitive atmosphere."
The amendment would also allow the rape victim to have her lawyer with her during cross-examination. Earlier, this was in-camera, making it uncomfortable for the victim, Kumar said.
"A rape victim will also be given a female lawyer because only a woman can understand a woman," he added.
The cabinet also proposed to allow victims of crime to appoint their own lawyers instead of being forced to use government prosecutors and end the practice of witnesses making confessions to police.