THE latest report of the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) reveals a steady increase in crimes against women and an alarming rise in sexual assaults on children. In 2016, 3.4 lakh cases of crimes against women were registered. This is a 2.9 per cent increase over the previous year. Of these 32 per cent concerned domestic violence, 25 per cent sexual harassment and 11.5 per cent rape. Statistics relating to crimes against women are always an underestimate as many cases go unreported, or, FIRs are not registered. Hence these figures can indicate only broad trends.
As far as crimes against children are concerned there were 1.1 lakh cases in 2016 which amounts to 13.6 percentage points increase over the previous year. There is a shocking 83 per cent rise in child rape cases in 2016; as against 10,934 cases in 2015 it rose to 19,920 cases in 2016.
These figures highlight the all-round failure to provide a safe and secure environment for women and children, the promise made by the BJP in its Lok Sabha election manifesto. There are a number of factors which have contributed to this dismal situation.
The Nirbhaya Fund was set up in 2015 to build infrastructure and mechanisms to prevent crimes against women. The fund has now Rs 3,100 crores. The nodal agency for this fund is the women and child development ministry. The ministry had said in July that it had recommended projects worth Rs 2,209 crores. But in a petition to the Supreme Court, the central government admitted that actual allocations were just Rs 264 crore, in other words just 8.5 per cent. Apart from this Rs 200 crores were allocated to the states for victim-relief, making it a total of around Rs 400 crores. However, there is no report of the utilisation of these funds.
This shows the lack of priority of the government. The social approach of the government and the dominant ideologies of those in power are also responsible. Laws meant to prevent crime and protect women are being diluted as for example Sec 498A which addresses incidents of domestic violence. The ideology of an ideal Hindu family with the epitome of a good wife demands silence from a victim of domestic violence.
Victim shaming encourages silence and acceptance on the part of the victim which is further compounded because of the lack of social and infrastructural support. Statements by political leaders blaming women for the violence against them with comments about their clothes, their movements and their friends are pillorising and shaming the victim which only encourages crime.
Shamefully minor girls are becoming victims showing the utter degeneration of values. The recent instances of children being abused in schools is a worrying phenomenon.
Low conviction rates of under 25 per cent in most categories of crimes against women act as an encouragement to criminals. The unhelpful role of the law enforcement agencies who also discourage women from filing complaints and the long delays in legal procedures add to the injustice.
Statements by members of parliament and legislatures blaming women for the crimes against them must not only be condemned but they must be held accountable for such statements by the legislatures concerned.
The main issue is the lack of political will to deal with crimes against women. The government and the law enforcement agencies must accord priority to tackle crimes against women and children. The Modi government must take up the Verma Committee recommendations to build a strong infrastructure for prevention of crimes against women and support to women who are victims, for implementation. There has to be strict implementation of laws against sexual harassment.
(December 6, 2017)