16 December 2012 has left an indelible mark in the minds of Indian citizens, especially the citizens of National Capital Region, about the safety of women in the historic capital city of India. The brutality of Delhi gang rape speaks volume about the Indian uncivilized and patriarchal mindset amidst the so-called Modern India of 21st century.
The December 16 gang rape of the young paramedic in the moving bus by six men led to widespread anguish and protest across India. As a result, slew of measures were taken by the Delhi Police and Government of India. Among these was setting up of help lines and women help desks at police stations, Parliament enacting the anti-rape law, and et al.
The big question arises after one full year of 16 December, has there been any meaningful change in the attitude of society towards woman? Has there been change in the environment with respect to women safety in Delhi?
If we look at the statistics provided by the Delhi Police and National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), we find that all talks of women safety and thereof any meaningful change in the society’s attitude towards women is just a mirage.
A Year since the death of the young paramedic Nirbhaya, there has been a 125% jump in the number of rape cases in Delhi. Molestation cases are up a massive 417%. Till November 2013, the Delhi Police registered 1,493 cases of rape against 661 in the corresponding period last year, 3,237 cases of molestation against 625, 852 cases of harassment against 165.
As per the data of National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), a total of 706 rape cases were registered in 2012, while the numbers of registered rape cases were 572 in 2011 as against 507 rape cases reported in 2010. The figure stood at 469 in 2009. In 2008, the figure was 466, while in 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 the figures were 598, 623, 658, 551, 490, 403 and 381 respectively.
However, the Delhi Police says these are not disturbing! According to them, the rise in rape cases and molestation in Delhi is because more and more cases are being reported and registered.
Changes since 16 December 2012 in Delhi
Delhi Police have set up women help desks at police stations which are functional round-the-clock.
A Crime Against Women Cell has been established for redressal of complaints and grievances of women in distress. An all-women police mobile team has been made functional round-the-clock.
Orders have been issued to ensure immediate registration of FIRs in cases of crime against women and efforts are made to file charge sheet against the accused within three months.
Patrolling has been increased, especially at night and on routes taken by BPO vehicles ferrying women. 24-hour police cover has also been ensured around entertainment hubs like malls and cinema halls with heightened vigil from 8 PM to 1 AM.
A woman can also dial 100 and get dropped home at night by a PCR van if she is stranded somewhere. The police also involved the community to ensure security and self-defence training was provided to hundreds of women.
A 'Parivartan' scheme was also launched in order to create awareness in schools, localities and police stations, sending women police personnel to patrol the neighbouring areas.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013 was brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gang-rape, and it was named the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. The law, passed by Lok Sabha on March 19, 2013 and by Rajya Sabha on March 21, 2013 replaced an Ordinance promulgated on February 3.
The Centre also amended various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against crimes like rapes, the new law stated that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict's natural life and with a fine.
It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes. The law, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will get a 10-year jail term.
The Way Ahead
Although the increasing number of reporting and cases being registered should be seen as a positive sign, yet the widely anticipated systemic changes have been missing and, unfortunately, the hope is slowly fading away.
No doubt, some key amendments have been done to update the criminal laws dealing with serious crimes against women, but the implementation of these laws still remains a major cause of worry.
It is important to bear in mind that, the fear of law for those indulging in heinous crimes against women will only be there if these are strictly enforced; otherwise all efforts will be merely cosmetic.
Other important lessons which should have been learnt still remain on paper. The society has to learn to treat rape victims with respect and they should not be subjected to any harassment.
There is an urgent need to set up one-stop centres to end the agony of victims who manage to reach a hospital after being subjected to sexual assault of any kind. It should be made mandatory for all hospitals to have such a centre with all encompassing protocol for the provision of medical, legal, and rehabilitative services for the victim.
A lady police officer, a lady doctor, a woman counsellor, a trained nurse, a forensic expert and a designated judicial magistrate will be required to attend to the victim and PCR vans have to be directed to take victims to the nearest hospital with such a centre to save the life and dignity of victims.
Set up the 100 crores rupee Nirbhaya Fund announced in the Union Budget 2013-14 at the earliest in order to put in place infrastructure for better safety of women.
The women and child development ministry had proposed a new programme to be funded from the Nirbhaya Fund, called Shubh, for vulnerable mapping of areas and categories of women who needed protection. This should be executed as soon as possible.
Other important issues like inclusion of gender sensitisation in the schools syllabi and awareness in the society to treat women as equals and with respect seem to remain topics of debate, but if the lawmakers are serious in addressing the issue, then certainly a lot more needs to be done.
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