NEW DELHI - A new scheme that guarantees compensation for survivors of sexual assault and acid attacks across India will strengthen victim care, but much more needs to be done to ensure justice, rights campaigners said on Monday.
The scheme will ensure uniform compensation of up to one million rupees (about $15,000) in all India's states and territories, some of which currently provide no financial support at all for sexual assault and acid attack victims.
Activists welcomed the initiative, approved by the Supreme Court last week, but urged authorities to do more to help victims in a country with some of the worst rates of sexual violence in the world.
"Compensation alone is not sufficient," Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"The government also has to direct states to create a proper and effective support structure to assist survivors and ensure reforms to the criminal justice system."
Conservative and patriarchal attitudes in India mean victims of sexual assault are often shunned by their families and communities and blamed for the violence perpetrated against them, say activists and lawyers.
Many are ostracized from their homes and cannot afford the legal fees to fight for justice in an under-resourced judicial system where verdicts can still take years to reach.
Karuna Nundy, a Supreme Court lawyer and women's rights activist, said only 5-10 percent of sexual violence victims currently received compensation due to "administrative lapses."
"The criminal process tends to forget about protecting the victim, acknowledging the failure of the state to prevent harm and to compensate her for pain and suffering, psychological damage and financial loss," she said.
Under the new scheme, gang-rape victims can receive up to one million rupees and rape victims up to 700,000 rupees, while acid attack and burn survivors can get up to 800,000 rupees in aid.
Since the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012, registered cases of sexual violence have steadily been rising with some 40,000 recorded in 2016, according to official data.
India's 29 states and seven union territories vary in how much support they provide to sexual assault victims, with some providing little to no formal financial aid, while others such as Goa give up to one million rupees.