A dismal situation
As many in the country unite for swift action against the Telangana rapists responsible for the death of a vet, responsible citizenry bring to highlight the need to look into the matter of crime against women in its entirety and not merely in terms of reports and available data. Violence against women in India is far more prevalent than imagined. The fact that many acts of violence are not considered crimes and several others go unreported or undocumented owing to numerous values and beliefs that are held tightly in societies, contribute to reasons and acts by way of which hundreds of females are violated every day in India. These reasons have led to India's Gender Inequality Index rating of 0.524 in 2017 which puts it in the bottom 20 per cent of ranked countries for that year. It was not too long ago when government officials had blamed the states of West Bengal and Bihar for lackadaisical responses in sending data saying that more subheads for the data would be added in the report which were to reportedly included data on hate crimes. It is also a fact that with a conviction rate of just 33.2 per cent, the Capital recorded 92.9 per cent cases of crime against women pending in various district courts. A poor conviction rate is attributed to either the witnesses turning hostile or lack of statement which delay the process affecting conclusion. The harassment on individual level following an act of crime is also a reason to keep matters repressed. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2017 reveal that convictions have taken place in 690 cases. In all, 41,302 cases, including 10,120 cases in 2017, are pending for trial in six district courts of Delhi. In 2017, a total of 11,542 cases of crimes against women were reported in Delhi followed by Mumbai with 5,453 cases, Bangalore with 3,565 cases and Hyderabad with 2,272. As the details go, a majority of cases under crime against women was registered under "Cruelty by Husband or his Relatives" (27.9 per cent), followed by "Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty" (21.7 per cent), "Kidnapping and Abduction of Women" (20.5 per cent) and "Rape" (7.0 per cent) in all 19 metropolitan cities. Considering that rape is the least on the list of crimes against women, most public outrages are instigated by this extreme act of violation. What, however, often misses the point is the understanding is that the chain of events that have been covertly socially conditioned as excusable that actually lead up to extreme acts like rape do not get the attention they deserve. Excusing common acts of sexual misconduct and ignorance is essentially the reason for social maladies of sexual nature to be so deep-rooted.
Institutionalised measures to curb crime against women include a range of initiatives beginning with dynamic identification of crime-prone areas, deployment of police resources, dedicated women helpline no. 1091, exclusive women help desk at police stations, anti-stalking services for women, stationing all-woman PCR vans in vulnerable areas, concerted action against consuming alcohol in public places, informing civic agencies regarding dark patches for rectification, self-defence training for women/girls and special drives against tinted glasses in public transport vehicles, etc. but the fact that the government has formally agreed to for a discussion in Lok Sabha on the issue of crime against women is one necessary step to address the issue at its core and not merely treat it for its symptoms. Given the limitations of the government, exploring stringent provisions in the law to check incidents like the Hyderabad rape and murder case can be a good start for a deterrent against any possible misconduct but the key to fixing this dismal situation lies in addressing the matter socially and making gender sensitisation a reality. This situation of crimes against India is by no means exclusive to India, world wide, it is estimated that 35 per cent of women at some point in their lives have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner which does not amount to sexual harassment. Evidence shows that women who have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence report higher rates of depression, having an abortion and acquiring HIV, compared to women who have not. Further, an estimated 650 million women and girls in the world today are married before they turn 18, adding to normalised perception of sexual offences against women and girls. Close to 15 million adolescent girls across the world have experienced forced sex at some point in their life. It is estimated that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half were killed by intimate partners or family members, meaning that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day. In the light of this statistics, it is worth pointing out that NCRB report leaves out honour killing altogether for being 'vague' and that available data regarding that is "unreliable". The NCRB report revealed no data on honour killings, rapes committed during communal/sectarian violence and murders that can be called hate crimes or instigated by fake/false news or rumours. Lack of data precisely point to the fact that so pervasive and common is the violation of women that unless taken to a grisly extreme like that of the Hyderabad vet or Nirbhaya, the severity of the offence remains doubtful, thus excused.