New data out suggests a big drop in rape cases. The number of cases between March 22 to April 12 (during the coronavirus lockdown) registered by the police, reportedly are 23 against 139 cases reported in this duration last year. That’s actually a whopping slide of 83.4%. But is this a number to celebrate? Is this what it takes to cut down rape cases in a country like India? A complete lockdown?

The capital of the country, New Delhi was touted as the rape capital of the world after the infamous Nirbhaya gang rape and murder in 2012. Since then too, the city records an average of over 2000 reported rape cases a year.

The new data as reported by The Hindu shows that  cases of sexual assault such as molestation, street harassment, eve-teasing have also dropped. Only 33 such cases were reported in the period of March-April this year as opposed to 239 last year which is a dip of 85.5 per cent. We wouldn’t be surprised that all over India we see drop in numbers but what does that really tell us? We need such an environment of a lockdown and social distancing for people to not rape or assault women? It’s here we must also mention that domestic violence cases have shot up.

Also read: In 94% Rape Cases Offenders Are Known To The Survivors: NCRB Data 

HAS THE CRIME DECREASED?

It has taken a countrywide lockdown to bring the rape cases down but does that mean the crime has decreased because people aren’t going out of their homes? In 2015, the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) annual report revealed that 86 per cent of all the rapes are committed by close family members such as fathers, brothers and uncles, as well as neighbours, employers, co-workers and friends. It was also the year Delhi reported the highest number of rapes in the country. So it may be true that the recorded dip reveals that rape crime inside Delhi homes has reduced?

FILING A COMPLAINT UNDER THE LOCKDOWN

However, it can also be argued that while rapes are still happening, the registration of a complaint with the police has drastically reduced because of the restrained movement of people in public spaces due to the lockdown. Fair enough that women can also file a complaint through the online portal, but with the varied demographic women in the capital belong to, it would be rather inaccurate that all of them are literate, have access and are aware enough to make an online complaint.

How do the authorities expect women to file a complaint when their perpetrator is in the house regulating their movement round the clock? In normal circumstances, women could go to the nearest police chowki or tell their well-wisher to file a complaint on their behalf, now with the COVID-19 scare who would risk going out at all?

Also read: Zero Tolerance For Domestic Violence Needed: UN Secretary-General

SURGE IN CASES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

During the lockdown, there has been a surge in cases of domestic violence in the country. National Commission for Women reports that cases of domestic violence have doubled since the lockdown. Between 23rd and 30th of March 2020, it registered 58 domestic violence cases out of the total 214 cases. NCW chairperson, Rekha Sharma believes the reason behind this sudden surge is that the men are stuck at home and they are taking out their frustration on women and as they refuse to share the responsibility of domestic chores. This isn’t India specific as other countries like France, China and Spain also recorded an upsurge in domestic violence cases amidst lockdown.

How do the authorities expect women to file a complaint when their perpetrator is in the house regulating their movement round the clock? In normal circumstances, women could go to the nearest police chowki or tell their well-wisher to file a complaint on their behalf, now with the COVID-19 scare who would risk going out at all?

WHAT ABOUT MARITAL RAPE?

Another point to consider in such a scenario is that India doesn’t even consider marital rape a crime like many other countries. Right now several disputed couples are in quarantine together, as a result several women are getting subjected to sexual abuse. Although the lockdown does not change the scenario in the case of marital rape, but this could also be a factor contributing to the increase in domestic violence cases across the board. This disturbing state of women is particularly mostly ignored when analysing crimes against women and coming to an exact figure of the number of cases happening is almost impossible.

With so many arguments defeating the logic of a large-scale dip in the number of crimes against women cases across the various demographic of the country, it isn’t time yet we laud the decrease in rape cases in the national capital.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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