India under scrutiny at UN over sexual violence and torture cases

India under scrutiny at UN over sexual violence and torture cases

India was urged to take a tougher stand on sexual violence and religious discrimination and ratify the torture convention, as countries raked over its human rights record at the UN Thursday.

New Delhi insisted it appreciated the role played by human rights defenders and said it would only impose the death penalty in the "the rarest of rare cases", as it heard other nations' critiques at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

"India condemns any form of torture and maintains an inviolable stand against arbitrary detention, torture, rape or sexual violence by anyone," India's Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the council.

New Delhi has signed the UN Convention Against Torture but has not ratified it.

India was facing its Universal Periodic Review, which all 193 UN countries must undergo every four years.

"We recommend that India reduce the broad application of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and similar laws against human rights activists, journalists and religious minorities," said Michele Taylor, the US ambassador to the council.

"Despite legal protections, discrimination and violence based on gender and religious affiliation persist. The application of anti-terror legislation has led to prolonged detentions of human rights defenders and activists," she added.

Canada urged India to probe all acts of sexual violence, and protect freedom of religion by investigating religious violence "including against Muslims".

Nepal said New Delhi should "strengthen its efforts to combat discrimination and violence against women and girls".

British ambassador Simon Manley urged India "to ensure its existing laws against child labour, human trafficking and forced labour are fully implemented".

China likewise said India should "take measures to fight human trafficking", and pursue gender equality.