Despite the outcry after the ‘Nirbhaya’ gangrape, India is seeing an increase in horrific incidents of rape and sexual violence against women. There was a 34% per cent increase in rape complaints from 2012 through 2015, according to the latest data available with the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB), cited by data journalism website IndiaSpend.
In 2016, reported rapes in India stood at 38,947, translating in four rapes across the country every hour. Reported cases of crime against women increased by 83% from 1,85,312 in 2007 to 3,38,954 in 2016.
The report states that 39 cases of crimes against women on average were reported every hour in 2016. ‘Cruelty by husband or relative’ constitute the most common crime against women in 2016, constituting 33% of all crimes. Rapes made up 11% of all the crimes against women, according to the government data.
Further, only 18.9% of cases of crimes against women ended in conviction in 2016, the lowest in a decade, as per NCRB figures.
The extremely low conviction rate, when viewed in the backdrop of an increase in the frequency of reporting of sexual offences against women, paint a not-so-encouraging picture of the Indian justice system.
In other words, while women have been more willing in reporting violence against themselves to the authorities, the legal system has majorly failed to meet bring the culprits to book.
The changing attitudes of Indian women towards crimes of sexual nature, despite the stigma attached in making them public in a largely patriarchal Indian society, are largely credited to the nationwide awareness movement triggered by the Nirbhaya gang-rape case.
The capital city witnessed a rise of 132% in the rapes reported in 2013, a year after the Delhi gang-rape. The number of rapes reported in Delhi tripled over a five-year period from 2011 through 2016, from 572 to 2,155.
Crimes against minors is a shameful component in the entire story. As pointed by Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday, there were 19,675 cases of rapes of minors in 2016.
Victims in both Unnao and Kathua were minors, and the voices of support for the accused in both the cases are symptomatic of the mentality that abets crimes against minors, helped by an apparently ineffective legal system.
While much remains to be desired as far as the legal system is concerned, government initiatives launched to improve safety of women in the country in the wake of Nirbhaya case have failed to take off either.
The Nirbhaya Fund, announced by the Union Finance Ministry in 2013, has seen its funding slashed by almost half ever since the BJP government came to power in 2014. While it was allocated ₹1,000 crore each in 2013 and 2014, there was no allocation to it in 2015. In 2016 and 2017, the government rationed only ₹550 crore per year to the Nirbhaya fund.
Government allocation for the Nirbhaya fund over the years
Out of a total allotment of ₹3,100 crore to the fund, only ₹400 crore was spent on various schemes, the government revealed in a reply to Rajya Sabha last year.
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