New Delhi, Thursday 20 December 2019: Each time a horrific incident of rape occurs, it shakes us up, but we either go numb and turn deaf to what’s happening around us or then we decide to break lose all systems and hang the accused, bypassing all evidence and protocols! Is there really a way we can help balance the act, become a part of the criminal justice system to deter the incidence of rape? Can we save the DNA?
In a pathbreaking campaign #DNAFightsRape – Save the Evidence, experts from across law enforcement, legal, forensics have talked about the role of scientific investigation and its most conclusive nature in convicting the guilty, where rape is concerned. In a film released in social media today, Dr. Vivek Sahajpal Assistant Director (DNA Testing), State Forensic Lab, Himachal Pradesh, talks about his experience in having dealt with a number of such cases, highlighting the fact that not all cases get public attention or even the support from their close ones to help fight for themselves. There are thousands out there like Nirbhaya, Disha or a Gudiya who do not get any support to fight the injustice brought on them. The act of rape itself is heinous and what makes it worse is the poor conviction that one sees in such cases due to lack of evidence.
He explains that the rapist inevitably leaves behind his DNA and that the bodily evidence, be it the blood, semen, hair, nail, sweat, saliva, all account for most crucial evidence that can help convict him. Sadly, not many people understand this, and in most instances, crucial DNA evidence is lost as the survivor in her state of shock and trauma tends to wash and clean off the evidence. By the very nature of the crime, one can clearly tell there would be no eyewitnesses, it all happens behind closed doors or in the dark, so where is the question of an eyewitness to testify for the prosecutrix? And yet, there is so much over-dependence on ocular evidence in the court! If we could simply save that bodily evidence, it will help track and convict the offender faster. Letting go of the evidence means not only boosting the criminal’s morale but it also negatively influences other elements in our society keeping a criminal mindset.
Forensic DNA is one of the most powerful tools that can help nab criminals in sexual crimes. DNA evidence from rape kits can identify an unknown assailant or confirm the presence of a known suspect. It can connect the suspect to other crime scenes and identify serial offenders. Also, it can exonerate the wrongfully accused. Nearly every country in the world has forensic capabilities that enable comparing DNA found at crime scenes to that of a database of suspects to find the culprit. However, India is lagging
in this respect. We are not doing enough DNA casework, as a result, those guilty of rape and murder often go scot-free!
The campaign #DNAFightsRape was launched November 25th, on the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, combining forces from the Delhi Police, UN Women India, AIIMS, MARD and others to support the move. An initiative of Ogilvy and GTH-GA, this is a public awareness drive, that articulates views of subject matter experts, stating the importance of DNA as world’s best crime-fighting technology and the need for it to be public knowledge. Rape is a burning issue in India and the common person has a very important role to play in expediting the criminal justice system. In a message going out from Dr. Pinky Anand, Additional Solicitor General, Govt. of India and Nishtha Satyam, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women India, there’s a clear ‘call to action’, do not wash, do not clean, DNAFightsRape-Save the Evidence! This has already crossed 700,000 views, reaching out to 4 million+ people and continuing to gain momentum.
Today, as is seen with the reporting of heinous crimes and statistics of aggravated rape cases going up, the functioning of law enforcement, judiciary and government is being constantly questioned. However, the question of proper and scientific investigation is not being talked enough. #DNAFightsRape introduces the right platform and opportunity to establish the significance and power of DNA. It presents with a powerful perspective and a great solution in the way we handle and treat crime. Holistically, the program aims at paving the way for a social transformation to make India a safer place for its citizens.
Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs is globally recognised public affairs consultancy firm that has expertise with forensic DNA database policy, legislative, and law. For nearly twenty years, consultants at GTH-GA have consulted in over 50 countries and states on legislation and policies to establish or expand criminal offender DNA databases. GTH-GA collaborates closely with governmental officials, crime labs, police and the DNA industry. GTH-GA operates the DNAResource.com website that has been used as the world’s primary source for DNA database policy and legislative information since 2000.
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