Crime Against Women
By Dhurjati Mukherjee
In India, as per report of National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) 2019 every 16 minutes, a woman is raped somewhere in some State and daily an average of 88 women are raped. And at least one minor is arrested for raping a woman or a girl every 8 hours in 2019, while over three on an average were held for assaulting a woman daily. The data further revealed 2750 juveniles were arrested in 2019 on charges of rape, assault on women and attempted rape cumulatively. Of these, 1383 and 1327 were arrested for rape and assault respectively.
The statistics are tip of the iceberg as survivors and families of victims are reluctant to record their complaint through an FIR, as they would be aware rather wary of the various roadblocks in their hunt for justice. As has been generally found and agreed is that when someone tries to file an FIR, against culprits belonging to the Upper caste, there is delay in filing it, the victim’s testimony is often changed while being written down and there is grave pressure to compromise. As such, convictions for rape stand at a miserable 28 per cent.
Experts have confirmed the immense difficulty in registering an FIR and this is evident not just in rural areas but in big cities too. Apart from this, the police machinery fails to take up cases in right earnest, obviously under pressure from political bosses till there is pressure from civil rights bodies or even the media following coverage of some cases. Further, it is stated that the pendency rate of cases under the SC/ST Act is at 94 per cent and sometimes the inordinate delay may dilute a particular case.
Sadly, while on the one hand atrocities have risen, the number of special fast courts has been reduced. In 2016, there were 195 such cases but it came down to 157 in 2018. Apart from those belonging to lower castes, specially Dalit and adivasis, (of the total 32,033 reported rape cases in the year, 11% were from the Dalit community, women who are mostly poor face sexual violence in different forms and do find it tough to fight the patriarchal system, prevalent across majority of States.
Additionally, WHO statistics state that one-third of Indian women face domestic violence but less than one per cent report it. Indian women are 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from a husband than others. And recent statistic has shown that during the first four phases of the lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in a similar period in the past 10 years. Moreover, it has been found that 86 per cent women who experienced domestic violence never sought help and that 77 per cent didn’t even mention the incident to anyone.
In August this year, a 13-year old Dalit girl was raped and brutally murdered for defecating in a farmland in a UP village in Lakhimpur Kheri district. The Hathras victim was also a Dalit. Similarly, there are umpteen such cases, not to speak of the Nirbhaya gang rape. A systemic and structured sexual violence is something that in our country cuts across social worlds and is not confined to such polarized spaces where physical violence against women is but a routine form of dealing with matters at hand, whether property or other disputes. And it has assumed a more pervasive and amorphous character in a heartless world.
With Hathras incident hitting headlines, though Opposition parties condemned it on expected lines, interestingly 100-odd retired bureaucrats recently wrote an open letter to the UP Chief Minister expressing pain at the “constant plumbing the depths of gravity and callousness in governance” and demanding punishment for the officials who had failed the alleged rape victim. The letter details the threat of policemen and the district magistrate to the bereaved family to “be careful about their statements to the media”.
Another data of NCRB showed that at least one minor was arrested for raping woman or girl every 8 hours in 2019 while more than three on average were held for assaulting a woman daily. The data further revealed 2750 juveniles were arrested in 2019 on charges of rape, assault on women and attempted rape cumulatively. Of these, 1383 and 1327 were arrested for rape and assault respectively.
All these figures are just the tip of the iceberg as survivors and families of victims are reluctant to record their complaint through an FIR while these people face huge roadblocks in every step of the process to get justice. As has been found, when someone tries to file an FIR, upper caste people reach the police station at the same time. Moreover, the victim’s testimony is often changed while being written down and there is pressure to compromise. As such, convictions for rape stand at a miserable 28 per cent.
Experts have confirmed the immense difficulty in registering an FIR and this is evident not just in rural areas but also in big cities. Apart from this, the corrupt police machinery doesn’t take up cases in right earnest unless there is pressure from civil rights bodies and the media. In this connection, it may be mentioned that the pendency rate of cases under the SC/ST Act at 94 per cent and sometimes the inordinate delay may dilute a particular case.
Even though atrocities have gone up from 2018 to 2019, the number of exclusive special courts has reduced. In 2016, there were 195 but this came down to 157 in 2018. Apart from people of lower castes, specially Dalit and adivasi women, who are mostly poor face sexual violence in different forms and have great difficulty in fighting against a patriarchal system.
The political class presently shows little concern for the lower castes and the impoverished sections, who live in abject poverty and squalor and have to struggle every day for a dignified existence. The lack of education, and more importantly, awareness about rights of the opposite sex enable sexual assaults and rapes to become the order of the day.
Talking to psychologists and psychiatrists, it becomes evident that the basic cause behind the increase in rapes may be attributed to increasing aggression in human behavior. Another trend that is manifest is the well-off upper castes youth, who have abandoned education and move about with financial support from their parents, are prone to show their power and fall for the opposite sex as they are sure that their family is above law. High levels of indiscipline are manifest in their behaviour as they have not been taught the need to be disciplined and follow the rule of law.
Though we talk of societal change and transformation, one needs to question the state of human behaviour, specially of a large section of the population, and whether there has been any perceptible change. There is an imperative need to spread awareness in society about basic tenets which one should follow to live in a cultured society. Merely talking of culture and tradition will not take us forward; there is need for dedicated action and awareness among generations about ourselves, our society and our responsibility –but most of all –morality.
One cannot deny that though there has been a perceptible increase in education, rape or even sexual assault on women and girls is a deep-rooted problem. Though women activists have played a significant role in highlighting the problem and bringing it to the forefront, a corrupt law enforcement machinery as also a patriarchal system have been major hindrances. It is expected that in the coming years things would change for the better and women would get their due role in society.— INFA