11 Years Since Nirbhaya: What We've Learnt About Crime Against Women

Eleven years ago, a woman, who came to be known as Nirbhaya (fearless), was gang-raped and murdered in Delhi. How far has society and the legal system come since? Let's take a look at cases of crimes against women in recent months.

Rudrani Gupta
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"It has been 11 years and nothing has changed," said Asha Devi, the mother of Nirbhaya, who was gang-raped and murdered in Delhi on this day in 2012. The 23-year-old paramedic student was raped inside a moving bus by six people before being thrown out on the road. She died 13 days later in Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Nirbhaya's father Badrinath Singh said, "Giving justice to one Nirbhaya will not give justice to everyone," reminding of the heinous crimes against women that happen to this day.


The six accused persons in Nirbhaya's case were arrested and one of them, Ram Singh, died of suicide in Tihar Jail after the trial began in 2015. A juvenile who was also part of the crime was sent to a correctional home for three years and released. The four others, Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) were hanged to death in March 2020. But Asha Devi stated that it has not helped the other women who face such crimes. "We got justice with everyone's cooperation but several cases are stuck in the lower court for 10 to 12 years," she noted.

Recent Assault In Belagavi

11 years on, whenever we start to think that maybe now society will be considerate towards women, cases of crimes against women hit a new low. As if raping women in the open was not enough, cases of stripping and assaulting them have seen a new rise. In recent months, many cases of women being paraded naked and assaulted in public have come to the fore from different states of our country. These cases show the unimaginable level to which our society has fallen to insult and dominate women.

On Saturday, the National Human Rights Commission issued a notice to the Karnataka Government and State police over the disturbing incident in Belgavi, Karnataka, where a tribal woman was paraded naked and assaulted in public. Police said that the 42-year-old woman was assaulted on December 12 by the family of a girl who eloped with the woman's son. The girl's family found the woman at home and dragged her out of the house, assaulted her physically, stripped her naked, publicly paraded her, and tied her to an electric pole to assault her.

The NHRC took suo motu cognizance of the case and expressed distress and anguish. The Commission deemed the case a "stereotyped patriarchal approach" and observed that the contents of the news report raise a serious issue of violation of the human rights of the survivor. "It is the duty of the state to safeguard vulnerable sections of the society, especially women, children and elderly persons," the statement said. The Commission has sought a detailed report from the chief secretary and director general of police of Karnataka.

Karnataka High Court Chief Justice PB Varale said, "I have no words. Look at the trauma that lady might have gone through. Two hours later, she was dragged from her house, stripped, and beaten like an animal. At 3.30 (AM) the police arrived, at 1 o'clock she was dragged from her house. Are they (assailants) human beings? Even animals have some sense. Is this the way human beings behave? For two hours she was beaten by animals. I am ashamed to call them as humans. How can someone be so cruel, so inhuman? We know you (State) are taking things with all seriousness, but look at this!" 


BJP National President JP Nadda, acknowledging the severity of the situation, confirmed the reception of the report submitted by the party's fact-finding team.  The fact-finding team, comprising women MPs Aprajita Sarangi, Sunita Duggal, Ranjeeta Koli, Locket Chatterjee, and BJP National Secretary Asha Lakra, visited the incident spot in Belagavi.

Parading Women Naked-- Rising Cause For Concern

This is not the only incident of a woman being stripped and assaulted in public. In September, a woman was paraded naked in Rajasthan. And she was pregnant! The 20-year-old woman was paraded naked by her husband and in-laws because she fled with another man in the same village. Angered by the incident, the husband and the in-laws brought the woman back, beat her up and paraded her naked in front of the entire village. 

In July 2023, a video of two women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted by a mob in Manipur also went viral. This happened when riots were going on in the state. It is not shocking that in the fight between two communities, women's bodies always become the battlegrounds. 

What Do These Incidents Tell Us?

These incidents tell us that society is inhumane towards women. In our society, women are treated worse than cattle animals. They are converted into slaves who have no standings of their own. They have to do what the society deems right to be safe. If they take one step beyond the limitations, they are punished like they are not humans but public property that can be used and mutilated as per wish. 


In most of the cases, women who were publically assaulted were not at fault. While one just expressed her freedom to choose, others were targeted just because they were women. Who defines what is right and wrong for women? Who gives society or villagers the right to decide what punishment any woman should deserve even if she is at fault? Who do people take law and order in hand when it comes to the persecution of women? Why do they forget that women too are citizens of our country with equal rights to justice in legal ways?

Moreover, why doesn't the public in front of whom women are assaulted show any outrage? Are they not even slightly disturbed by the inhumane sight? Or do they consider it an opportunity to see women naked? When women are assaulted behind the doors, people say that it is a family matter and so they should not intervene. But now when women are being assaulted in public, why are those people quiet? 

It is the silence of these people that fans the courage of the assailants to assault women in public. It is this silence that normalises violence against women in private and public. It is this silence that is scaring common women like us who might be the next target. 

As the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court rightly pointed out, "There was Lord Sri Krishna to help Draupadi (when she was disrobed in public). In this modern era, who is to help poor Draupadi? No Krishna will come to help! When Draupadi wailed and cried for help, Lord Sri Krishna helped her. Unfortunately, this is a world of Duryodhans and Dushasans! Not a single Lord Krishna will come to help," 

Views expressed are the author's own.

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