Women’s Safety in India: What does the data say?
India has been ranked as world’s most unsafe country for women in a survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. This survey ranked the countries on six key areas – healthcare, discrimination, cultural traditions, sexual violence, non-sexual violence and human trafficking. The survey’s methodology involved opinion from the experts who were asked to name 5 most unsafe countries among the 193 member nations of the United Nations. The experts included those who focussed on women’s issues like academics, health workers, policymakers, NGO workers and journalists among others. The poll was conducted online, by phone and in person between 26 March and 4 May with an even spread across Europe, Africa, America, South East Asia, South Asia and the Pacific.
Women’s safety was one of the key areas in the election manifesto of BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and also in Narendra Modi’s campaign speeches. The nationwide protests following the horrific Delhi gang rape of 2012 had put the then Congress governments of both Delhi and in Centre in a tough spot. However, BJP has proved to be worse in the last four years when it has come to taking concrete steps to ensure women’s safety. The response of the BJP government only shows the lack of seriousness on its part. Maneka Gandhi, the Union minister for Women and Child development, instead of acknowledging the seriousness of the issue has rejected the survey itself. She has a letter to the Thomson Reuters Foundation asking details of the methodology used to get the official numbers, the sample size used and information as to who were the stakeholders. National Commission for Women (a supposedly non-partisan body) chairperson Rekha Sharma too has rejected the survey report, claiming that the sample size was small and could not be representative of the whole country.
While the questions raised by the representatives of BJP may have some weight, the reality around us is starkly visible. In fact, what can be more hypocritical than the fact that the results of the earlier report of this very survey in 2011 was used by BJP leaders including PM Modi to isolate the then ruling Congress party. In the 2011 survey, India was ranked as the fourth most dangerous country. Topping the list in 2011 was Afghanistan, followed by Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and Somalia.
Let us have a look at the National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB) data on the crimes against women. It needs to be mentioned here that NCRB is a government body which prepares the annual crime data by collating the cases filed in the police stations across the country and is the most comprehensive source of data to analyze the trends in crime. The last available NCRB report is for the year 2016. It needs to be kept in mind that it is based only on the registered cases and hence, the actual numbers would be far greater ( in cases of crime against women, the actual numbers are bound to be even more higher given the pressure on women from family, community etc to not file the cases).
So, what does the data say?
- As many as 2.5 million crimes against women have been reported in India over the last decade. Reported cases of crime against women increased 83 percent from 185,312 in 2007 to 338,954 in 2016.
- In 2016, 3.4 lakh cases of crimes against women were registered. This is a 2.9 per cent increase over the previous year. Of these 32 per cent concerned domestic violence, 25 per cent sexual harassment and 11.5 per cent rape.
- The union territory of Delhi reported the highest crime rate – 160.4 against the national average of 55.2. Delhi was followed by Assam (131.3), Odisha (84.5), Telangana (83.7) and Rajasthan (78.3).
- Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state – reported the most (15 percent) crimes against women in 2016 – 49,262 or six every hour. UP was followed by West Bengal (32,513), Maharashtra (31,388), Rajasthan (27,422) and Madhya Pradesh (26,604). (Note that four of these five states have BJP led governments).
- Four rape cases were reported every hour in the country in 2016, up from two every hour in 2007. Madhya Pradesh registered the most cases (4,882). (Again a state with BJP government)
- At 18.9 percent, the conviction rate for crimes against women in 2016 was the lowest in since 2007. West Bengal, which registered the second most number of crimes in 2016, reported the lowest conviction rate (3.3 percent).
It is clear from the NCRB data has the situation has indeed worsened in the last four years. But, why has it been so? The main issue is the lack of political will to deal with crimes against women. The government and the law enforcement agencies have utterly failed to accord priority to tackle crimes against women and children. The Modi government has done absolutely nothing to take up the Verma Committee recommendations to build a strong infrastructure for prevention of crimes against women and support to women who are victims, for implementation.
The Nirbhaya Fund was set up in 2015 to build infrastructure and mechanisms to prevent crimes against women. The fund has now Rs 3,100 crores. The nodal agency for this fund is the women and child development ministry. The ministry had said in July that it had recommended projects worth Rs 2,209 crores. But in a petition to the Supreme Court, the central government admitted that actual allocations were just Rs 264 crore, in other words just 8.5 per cent. Apart from this Rs 200 crores were allocated to the states for victim-relief, making it a total of around Rs 400 crores. However, there is no report of the utilisation of these funds.
The role of Hindutva, the RSS affiliated organizations and the misogynistic storm-troopers who have been let loose to act with impunity have all created a situation where in the patriarchal forces have emboldened. The shameful proof of this was witnessed when BJP and RSS leaders led tricolor marches in support of those accused in the rape and murder of the 8-year old child in Kathua. All this stems out of anti-women worldview that RSS espouses and it is only through consistent pressure by mass mobilizations that this government can be forced to come out of its denial mode.