Delhi, June 23: With the steep surge in the incidents of gang rape, India appears all set to achieve the top slot among the nations that are notorious for such heinous crimes against women as patriarchy and a skewed sex ratio between male and female make the evil of violence against women from all communities and classes worse.
The rise in the cases of violence against women has reached an alarming level because India is among the countries whose cultural traditions are based on gender inequality that help increase violence against women as post-colonial social and political processes fail to usher equality within the civil society making India a dangerous and unsafe place for women to live as is evident from many travel advisories issued to travellers to India.
Despite being discussed in society and having public apathy, crimes against women in general and gang rape, in particular, have never become an issue on which elections could be fought and successive government be made accountable for failing to stem this social evil that has made women including minors most vulnerable.
“A few ancient traditions legitimises rape as a form of marriage and give it some degree of legal sanction to a woman who has been raped. So far nothing has changed after Nirbhya gang rape of 2012 that sparked global outrage and public protests. But the good news is that there is higher and better reporting of rape and gang rape. The bad news is that a shambolic criminal justice system remains vulnerable to political pressure and allows many of the accused to go scot-free,” wrote Wendy Doniger, a US-based Indologist.
The growing involvement of minors in the cases of gang rape has emerged as a new phenomenon in recent time and is causing serious worries within society, police and administration. The social scientists and police link this phenomenon with the advent of new technology, easy access to information and the availability of smartphones which has compounded the problem. There are dozens of cases where rapists have recorded their acts of rapes on their smartphones and threatened the victims that they would put up the rape videos on social media if the victims report the crime.
More than 7,200 minors – 1.6 in 100,000 minors – are reportedly raped in India each year. Most victims of sexual crimes don't report the assaults due to the alleged mistreatment and humiliation by the police. Also, minor girls are trafficked into prostitution in India, thus the rape of minors conflates into a lifetime of suffering. India ranks seventh in sex trafficking and crimes against minors index.
There is the other side of the story also, where minors are involved in being involved in crimes, "A lot of minors are committing crimes like rape because they are under the influence of songs, movies on the net and television serials that don’t portray women in a positive manner and lyrics of most of the current songs are filthy. All these things poison the mind of kids. It is imperative on all the stakeholders in the society and administration that such trends are not promoted,” said New Delhi -stationed Dr Ms Sonu Ghambir, a psychiatrist.
The society in many of the Indian states particularly in the northern region has never been gender-sensitive and there is no place for equality between the sexes in many states in India where the sex ratio is badly skewed. It should be pointed out that a deep-rooted Khap Panchayat system promotes honour killings and inequality within the society which further strengthens patriarchy.
The easy access to pornography through new telecommunications technology is also a challenge to the security of women particularly Dalits who are most vulnerable to such crime in Indian society.
“Feminist movements in India need to collaborate on and advance the demands for justice for victims of sexualised crimes. To do so, organisations need to develop an intersectional approach, allowing Dalit women to take the lead. Doing this work could help challenge caste bias in the legal and institutional systems," said Sanjana Pegu, Delhi-based feminist write and a researcher on women relating issues.
The data from the National Crime Record Bureau says up to May 2018, 70 cases of gang rapes were filed in the various states and of these 33 cases are being still probed and 18 cases are under trial. In 2019
alone, 176 cases of gang rape were registered in Haryana that not only makes it notorious for crime but also a highly unsafe place for women.
The government figure on the rape cases revealed that cases of rape against scheduled castes women have increased by 37 per cent.
Overall crime against women increased by 23.3 per cent and although more crime against women and Dalits were reported, the investigation and prosecution of these cases were tardier than other categories.
“North India especially UP, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana and also Delhi have faced and suffered a lot of social oppression, caste biases and atrocities in the name of caste. People have less faith in law and justice. Moreover, failure of people's movement, failure of media, lack of sex education, misuse of technology, decreasing governmental intrusion in this regard (as a cure), psychological aspects, extremely materialistic lives, sense of future consequences, less parental control are few reasons behind the increasing number of hate crime or such gruesome crimes in these (Northern) states," said Neetu Tiwari, a senior lawyer and an expert in juvenile justice law who practices in Supreme Court
Rape made for nearly 8% of crimes against women in India in 2019 when a total of 32,316 cases (including 283 incidents of murder with rape and rape of girls) were registered. This averages 88 rape cases a day or one rape every 16 minutes. Of these reported cases, 60% are in the age group of 18-30 years.
Gang rape constituted nearly 6% of all rape cases in India with 1,931 cases registered during 2019. Rajasthan recorded the highest number of gang rapes (902), followed by Uttar Pradesh (301) and Madhya Pradesh (162).