This weekend news was filled with reports of crimes against women from across the country. A woman in Sakinaka, Mumbai, was sexually assaulted in the back of a parked tempo.
A 24-year-old national athlete from Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, was found on the train tracks with grave injuries and evidence of rape.
From Chhattisgarh came the report of a woman abducted and gang-raped. The suspects confessed to killing her for putting up a fight.
Unfortunately, this is not the extent of violence against women in the country. These are merely the reports that made it into the national news.
It has forced us to introspect on the laws and policies we have in place to prevent such crimes from happening.
Significant Increase in Crimes Against Women
In the eight months of 2021, there is a 46% rise in complaints of crimes against women. The already high number of such complaints, the 46% increase, indicates the country’s grave situation.
From January to August 2021, the National Commission for Women (NCW) reports 19,953 complaints of crimes.
The number shows an increase of 6,000 from the same period last year. In July 2021, NCW received more than 3,000 complaints which are the highest since 2015.
Uttar Pradesh accounts for more than half of these complaints, followed behind by the national capital, Haryana and Maharashtra, in that order.
However, there is a steep gap between the numbers from UP (10,084) and Delhi (2,147) and between Delhi and Haryana (995).
Why is The Steep Increase?
NCW chief Rekha Sharma when asked about the steep rise in cases from 2020 to 2021, explained that the regular awareness programmes regarding the commission’s work contributed to the increase in reports of the crimes.
Before the increased awareness, these crimes would not have been reported. Women are now more open to reporting the crimes committed against them and seeking legal help.
What Needs to Be Done?
Over the last decade, courts and legislative strengthened rape laws to offer superior protection to women.
However, punishment is not the solution to preventing crimes. The reason behind most of the crimes against women is the patriarchal mindset.
This has been, time and again, seen in the statements made by people in power regarding rape. The blame is on the shoulders of the victim rather than the perpetrator.
In 2011, the international men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) surveyed gender attitudes in India.
It showed that 68% of Indian men surveyed agreed that women should learn to tolerate violence against them to protect their families.
65% believed that women deserved to be beaten. The findings show the deep-rooted patriarchy that perpetrates violence against women.
The process to change the situation in the country should start from education, socialization, and promoting the idea of gender equality. However, such change would require time and patience, which the country cannot afford.
A more immediate solution to curbing the crimes against women is a better implementation of the laws.
We have strong laws in India, developed over the years and amended to account for the changing situations. What we lack is the implementation of these laws.
Government must undertake police reform to increase police staffing, significantly increasing the number of women police offers.
Additionally, there needs to be a system to punish police officers who refuse to file complaints for various reasons, including but not restricted to caste and power politics.
While the law is strong, it is susceptible to loopholes because of the lack of training of detectives and police officers handling the investigation.
The investigative officer needs training in the proper procedure of investigation and handling evidence.
Prosecution lawyers lack the motivation to do their job due to inadequate pay and lack of resources.
Protection for survivors and their families need to be ensured, including medical, legal and psychological care.
Doctors and nurses responsible for caring for the victims need to be trained to collect evidence and look for signs.
Punishment is not the solution to preventing crimes against women. However, proper prosecution of the men responsible for these crimes would hold others accountable for their behaviour.
It would also avert repeat crimes by the men who walk free due to improper implementation of justice.