The National Crime Records Bureau report on crime in the country in 2015 revealed that there were at least 34,651 cases of rape across India, with victims ranging in age from under six years old to over 60 years old.
From Six to Sixty Year Olds Are Raped
The largest number of rape attacks targeted women in the age group 18-30 – about 17,000. In 95.5 per cent of all the 34,651 cases reported, the women had been acquainted with the rapists. The only consolation that the report could offer was a minuscule drop in the number of reported rape cases in 2015; in 2014, the number was 36,735, reports ‘Al Jazeera’.
The NCRB report also listed 4,437 reported cases of attempted rape in 2015.
According to human rights workers, the key to reading the NCRB statistics is to note the word ‘reported’. The figures represent only the cases in which complaints were filed with the police; for many women in India, social stigma means hundreds of rape attacks could remain unreported.
Conversely, many parents whose daughters have eloped file complaints of rape with the police.
“Rape is highly under-reported,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. “The heart of the issue is structures in India that continue to restrict women’s autonomy, and especially sexual autonomy, often justified in the name of culture.”
Cases of rape in India tended to be dealt with casually till December 2012, when a young woman, named Nirbhaya by the media, was brutally gangraped on a moving bus in Delhi. The ferocious attack on the woman triggered an outburst of protests all over the country, but especially in Delhi, where the government even used water cannon to disperse the massive crowds at demonstrations.
The Nirbhaya case also took centre stage on the global level, with India’s poor record of sexual harassment and violence against women suddenly under the scrutiny of the world.
Since then, chances are that more rape attacks are being reported to the police, but the situation for women and children in India remains a cause for concern, Shreya Jani, who runs a peace education NGO in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s heartening to see that now more women are reporting these crimes and speaking up. As Indian women, we are a paradox of strength and silence. I am glad the silence is being broken by many now,” she said.
However, she added, she is still afraid of being on deserted streets at “any time of the day or night”.
Like thousands of women across the country who have the luxury of smartphones, Jani ensures that people she trusts are always aware of where she is, and that her mobile phone is always fully charged.
Across the country, app developers are releasing emergency apps to ensure women’s safety, while this June, Parliament passed a bill that makes it mandatory for buses to install panic buttons to be used in case of possible sexual violence.
Another law passed by Parliament makes it mandatory from 2017 for all mobile phones sold in the country to include a panic button, while from 2018, all phones must include a GPS navigation system.
The total of all crimes against women last year, including rape, according to the NCRB, was 327,394. These include issues such as sexual harassment, attempts to undress, trafficking of women from foreign countries, domestic cruelty, kidnapping and abductions.
Feature image credit: sify.com