Monday, December 16, 2013

Attack on India’s Daughter: Did We Learn?

On the anniversary of the brutal attack on Nirbhaya or simply India’s daughter, Zerocrime analyses how we have progressed on not only on the issue of improving the safety of women but also on the perception of women in our society.

Increase in Reporting of Cases
According to government statistics, the number of cases of rape reported in 2013 has increased significantly. Between January and October 2013, 1330 cases were reported compared to 706 cases in the whole of 2012. This indicates that either rape incidents in the Capital have almost doubled or the more likely explanation that survivors of rape incidents and their family members are now coming forward and increasingly reporting to seek justice. Another explanation is that now it is mandatory for the Police to file an FIR on the complaint of a woman. This is a positive development but reporting is only the first step in order to seek justice. Has the Government taken any steps to ensure speedy justice for the survivors?

Steps Taken by the Government/Police
Pressurized by the public protests that followed the brutal attack, the Government introduced stricter laws that made stalking, voyeurism, and sexual harassment a crime. A fast-track court has also been set-up for speedy trials of rape cases. The Delhi Police has also taken steps to ensure increased safety of women. These steps are listed below:
  • Set-up women-run helpdesks at Police Stations that function round-the-clock
  • Increased Police Helpline (100) lines from 60 to 100
  • Made it possible to register cases anywhere in the Capital irrespective of jurisdiction
  • Established a ‘Crime Against Women’ cell for redressal of complaints from women in distress
  • Operates helplines for women (1091, 1096, 181, 9818099012)
  • Introduced a women’s Post Mail exclusively for complaints from women
  • Introduced an all-women Police mobile team that patrols throughout the day
  • Issued orders to ensure immediate registration of FIRs in cases of crime against women
  • Increased patrolling at night

While these steps taken by the Government/Police seem like positive developments, it is important to note that these are primarily curative in nature rather than preventive. While these come in handy once the crime has been committed, shouldn’t steps be taken to avoid the crime happening in the first place? Also, have these steps had a real effect on the streets of Delhi?

The Real Story on the Streets of Delhi
In a country with patriarchal traditions, the effect of the brutal attack, steps by Government/Police, and the verdict of the Delhi High Court awarding death penalty to four of the accused seems to have had little effect on the way women are treated on the streets. According to reports in the media, women say that they are still stared at, are made targets of lewd comments, and followed on the streets. Autos still refuse to take passengers and CCTVs are still not completely functional. According to a media report, the Delhi Police Women’s helpline received 2,000 calls within a span of 45 days after the brutal attack. Most of the complaints were regarding being stalked, getting obscene calls, and domestic violence.

In short, women in India are continued to be viewed as objects of sexual gratification and a year seems too short a period to notice any visible effects of last year’s incident. While the Government and other law enforcement agencies seem to have placed a strong structure for reporting of crime, few steps have been taken to eradicate the root of crime against women.

(Data sourced from NDTV, First Post, India Today, IBN Live)

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