Justice to rape victims still a far cry  

The government was forced to enact new laws and announce systemic changes to ensure perpetrators to get stringent punishment after the gang rape and death of a young student in Delhi in December 2012. But the reality is still rape victims in India including the Delhi gang rape continue to face significant barriers in access to justice. The people are really disturbed by seeing the daily news about rape and sexual attacks. It has become topics of debate but brutal sexual attacks against women and children continue to be reported across the country. The horror rape and murder of 26 year old woman in Hyderabad brought into focus the safety of women in India. However the women safety is again brushed under the carpet as the activist, politicians, common people and media are behind CAA and NRC.

Rape and sexual assault perhaps the worst form of violence against women. They are severe human rights violations, yet remain widespread around the country. Both are extremely traumatizing with lifelong repercussions for the victim’s health and well being. In 2019 “N” number of horrific rape cases has already been reported and many are unreported. It is a fact that the entire world has a rape crisis, not just India, and some of the most monstrous assaults that take place in other countries go largely unnoticed. However, In India it is reported that every 20 minutes, a woman is raped and it is the most common crime in the country. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has released the annual Crime in India Report 2017 on October 28, after a delay of two year shows that a total of 32,559 rapes were reported in 2017 in India. . 24,212 cases of child abuse have been registered in India between January 1 and June 30 2019, which means 4000 cases in a month, 130 in a day and one in every five minutes.

Why Justice to Rape Victims delay

Poor Police Response: Indian law provides that in cases of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, a trained female police officer should gather testimony from the survivor, videotape her statement, and have her statement recorded by a judicial magistrate as soon as possible. However, Police do not always adhere to these rules. In many rape cases, the police spend more time seeking pacification between the attacker and the victim than investigating the facts. Experts say, the police are poorly organized to deal with serious crimes, particularly those against women. In a 2019 survey of police personnel across India, the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) show that around 20% of all police believe that gender-based violence complaints are false and motivated. Furthermore a police force that is corrupt and easily susceptible to political interference delay the process of serving justice to the victim. According to NCRB data, 29% of all cases of rape at the end of 2017 were unresolved by police forces across the country.

Lack of proper medical documentation: Health professionals should assist survivors in their medico-legal proceedings by collecting evidence and ensuring a good quality documentation. In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines for medico-legal care for survivors of sexual violence to standardize healthcare professionals’ examination and treatment of sexual assault survivors. However police and health care professionals are not trained about the medico-legal guidelines. As a result poor documentation happened  due to  victim blaming and   outdated guidelines.

Lack of Forensic Labs: There is a massive shortage of forensic labs in India as it was informed that reports, particularly DNA analysis, take two-to-three years. Moreover reports showed that mortuaries maintained by the government were in bad shape, with viscera and other evidence getting damaged due to improper maintenance.

Lack of awareness of “one stop crisis centres”:  One-Stop Crisis Centres come under the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) facilitate all medical, legal, psychological and counseling facilities under one roof to women who have been subjected to violence in order to get  a speedy and integrated assistance. Delhi was supposed to have 14 of these centres in its 14 districts. But all these years only six have been set up. In addition, public don’t have enough awareness about these centres. “One Stop Crisis Centre” – written on the board outside in the hospitals don’t not explain what the centre is meant. Due to the unawareness, a rape victim immediately goes to the nearest police station. Then cops take her to the nearest government hospital for medical examination followed by her statement before the judicial magistrate. This is a time-taking process and the concept of providing speedy and integrated assistance under one roof is defeated. MWCD data shows that only few states have set up the required infrastructure.

 A slow moving court system: In India victims/families have to wait years to get justice (Nirbhaya case is an example) .Also in cases where the death penalty has been handed out, those convicted have many chances to appeal against their sentence. India’s court system is moving very  slow,  because of shortage of judges. Several commissions and legal scholars have suggested India’s courts need more judges to process the backlog of cases. Lack of fast track courts is another reason for the delay of speedy justice. A scheme to set up 1,023 dedicated special fast-track courts to handle rape and POCSO cases is “under implementation”.

Low Convictions: Rape and gang rape cases are progressively increasing while conviction rates remain extremely low. In IPC offences conviction rate is about 40 per cent. In cases of sexual violence it is a poor 18.9 per cent. The reason is our investigations are based mostly on oral testimonies. When the same witnesses change their version in court, cases fall flat. Nearly 88% of all rape cases in Indian courts were pending resolution in 2017.Delhi, Kerala and Jharkhand have the biggest relative backlog on crimes against women compared to other crimes.As of March 2018, there were 1,66,882 cases of rape and those lodged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act-2012 pending trial across the country. As of August 2019, POCSO cases alone stood at 1,60,989.

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