Is India becoming unsafe for women?

A ‘Crime Scene’ Walks to the Police for Justice; Story of a Woman conceived after rape of 13-year-old

A slew of recent incidents of rape-murder has once again brought the issue of women safety in the country to the fore. The most horrid among them happened in Hyderabad and in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh. In a similar incident, a minor girl was allegedly raped and burnt to death in Tripura. The girl was admitted with 90 per cent burn injuries and she passed away in the wee hours of Saturday. These incidents again sparked outrage among people. Rape is the most violent crime which is committed against women. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code defines rape as “sexual intercourse with a woman against her will, without her consent, by coercion, misrepresentation or fraud or at a time when she has been intoxicated or duped, or is of unsound mental health and in any case if she is under 18 years of age. The Supreme Court once in its judgment said, “Rape is the most morally and physically reprehensible crime in a society, an assault on the body, mind and privacy of the victim. While a murderer destroys the physical frame of the victim, a rapist degrades and defiles the soul of a helpless female. Rape reduces a woman to an animal, as it shakes the very core of her life.”

According to the latest official records, police registered 33,658 cases of rape in 2017, an average of 92 a day. However, the real figure is believed to be far higher as many women in India do not go to the police out of fear of social stigma. Due to the slow legal system thousands of cases remain stuck in courts. Figures for 2017 reveal that courts opened 18,300 cases related to rape but more than 127,800 more remained pending at the end of the year. Reports revealed that a lot of rape cases in India are happening with men who are known to the victim. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 106,958 cases of crimes against children were recorded in 2016. Of these, 36,022 cases were recorded under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. As per State-wise cases under POCSO Act, Uttar Pradesh registered the highest number of child abuse cases (4,954) followed by Maharashtra (4,815) and Madhya Pradesh (4,717 cases). The Centre reformed the anti-rape laws after the alleged rape and murder of girls in Jammu & Kashmir’s Kathua and Gujarat’s Surat district. Based on new law, stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided – minimum 20 years’ imprisonment or imprisonment for rest of life or with death and in case of gang-rape of a girl below 12 years, punishment will be imprisonment for rest of life or death sentence. Minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment. In 2013, after Delhi gang-rape case many laws have been amended, age of consent is also increased from 16 to 18. Despite of all these rapes and attack against women are in rise. This shows that the rapists are not scared of laws. Again the government promises strictest law to protect women after the horrid murder and rape in Hyderabad.

However, the fact our anti-rape laws are weak when compared to other countries is a major factor for the rise of rape cases in India. For example countries like Singapore penalty for rape is imprisonment for up to 20 years and also a fine or caning. Countries like China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran and Afghanistan have capital punishment for the person who commits rape. In order to control the crime against women our country should introduce capital punishment for the rape culprit. Another factor for rise in rape cases are the conviction rate in rape cases is as low as 32.2 per cent at national level according to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In 2017, a total of 1,46,201 rape cases were in trail, of which trial in only 18,333 cases were disposed of by courts. Of the total 18,099 rape cases where trial was completed in 2017, only 5,822 cases resulted in conviction while 11,453 cases resulted in acquittal and 824 cases in discharge. This shows the sluggish nature of the Indian Judiciary. For example the first conviction in Nirbhaya gang rape case came only on August 31, 2013, eight and a half months after she was raped. The juvenile was held guilty and sentenced to a reformation centre for three years. The distressing factor is that still Nirbhaya case has not reached its closure as 7 years have passed so far. The final output of such a judiciary system is the criminals have lost fear of law and the common people have lost belief in the law. This is the sad truth behind the celebrations and appraisal about the encounter done by Telangana police even though every person is aware that it is against the judiciary system of a country. The judiciary should take this as a serious matter of concern as the police has usurped power and the roles of the court later lead our country to anarchy. Therefore, it is necessary to reform and reframe our laws. In addition, we need more Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) for rape and POCSO (Protection of Children against Sexual Offences) cases. Now the country has 1,023 FTSCs, which will dispose 166,882 cases that are pending trial in various courts. The lack of public safety is another major issue for women. They are not safe outside their home especially at night. Travelling at night is a nightmare for most women in India. The initiative taken by Ludhiana Police is remarkable in this context. They are offering free rides in a police vehicle to women who are unable to find cab rides at night. It is true that a woman feels more comfortable and safe with female police personnel than male personnel. Therefore,  a woman’s squad should be formed in every district which would exclusively deal with problems of women and provide training to women’s self-defense skills. Finally, the most important cause of rape is the moral degradation of the society. Our country has its own culture, morality and values. But today it is going down through the bad impacts of social media, luxuries, alcohol, drugs, pornography and violent video games. It is shocked to hear that the victim of the vicious gang-rape and murder at Hyderabad was propelled to the top of a popular porn site’s trends by fake video up loaders and user searches. This makes to think that more sick-minded people are in our society who are really wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The one of the root causes of violence against women is the patriarchal attitude of the society. Media and attitude of elders in the society have an impact on the impressionable minds of youths. Boys are not taught to respect women. It is natural for a male to feel attracted to a female. But care should be taken not to cross the limits of morality. Such education should be provided at homes. Instead of educating our girls on how to be safe, it is better to educate our boys how to treat a woman with respect.

 

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