The census of 2011 says, India’s population was 1210.19 million, 586.47 million (48.5%) females and 623.72 million (51.5%) males. However gender equality still leaves a lot to be desired in the country especially in terms of safety from crimes as seen in the steady climb in the number of reported crimes against women since 2000. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2014 show the doubled numbers from 1, 43,795 in 2001 to 3, and 37,992 an average a crime against a woman every three minutes.
Since crime against women is not class specific, law makers, media, educationists cutting across society lines have advised Central and State governments to bring in new legislation and amendments in existing laws to ensure safety of woman in all walks of life at home on the street or at work.
Crimes against women are classified and listed as two categories:
1) The crimes under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) includes major crimes like rape/ Kidnapping & abduction/ Insult to the modesty of women/ Abetment of suicide/trafficking etc
2) The crimes under the Special & Local Laws (SLL) includes dowry/sati/ Indecent Representation etc
Rape/Gang Rape: The most barbaric cases of all crimes; nation has become infamous for some cases like Imrana case (2005), Shopain case (2009), Soumya train rape case (2011), Bhanwari Devi case (2011), Nirbhaya case (2012), Shakti Mill case (2013), Khandamal case (2015), Ahmednagar case (2016). Some attackers are strangers but 86% cases seem to involve relatives, friends and acquaintances. Marital rape is still not considered an offence.
Sexual Harassment: A rough estimate says, 7 in every 0 woman have faced some form of lewd comments, groping or stalking. The past decades have seen feminists, litigators and support groups define sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination and remedies and laws towards a change has been demanded. The sexual harrsement against children have increased at a drastic rate in the past few years and instances are far greater than what is reported to authorities.
The Women Sexual Harassment Act (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressed) Act, 2013 is a legislative act applicable at work, street or home and defines sexual harassment as indecent act or behavior, unwelcome sexually determined behavior as physical contact and advances, sexually colored remarks, insult to modesty, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions. It covers all forms of harassment including creation of hostile work environment and processes to deal with such cases.
Domestic Violence: Not confined to the weaker sections of the society, about 70% of Indian women have experienced some form of domestic violence. This is a universal problem and 33% of men have confirmed that they have hurt their partners sometime. A survey said that 65% of Indian men believe women should tolerate violence in maintain family unity some believe they deserve it.
Child Marriages: There is a disturbing trend of pushing young girls into marriages which cause physical, mental and emotional trauma for life time adding to early child birth and domestic violence. New cases of girls opposing these practices have also come out which is encouraging.
Acid Throwing: 72% of such reported cases have women as the sufferers causing permanent scarring, blindness, social isolation, psychological and economic difficulties. Many cases have been related to spurned relationships or marriages, property disputes or business disagreements.
Honour Killing: This is an age old practice now coming to light and is the killing of a relative, especially a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonor on the family. The killer is usually a close male relative or a parent. A lot of these are due to marrying out of caste or religion, eloping, rejection of arranged marriages, non acceptance of marriage by family etc.
Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and especially in Haryana the Khap Panchayats/ caste councils of village elders accept this as a punishment. The killings are linked to lack of education, ignorance of global growth, non acceptance of liberation of women from age old social rules, independence and opportunity to earn their own livelihood reducing dependency and increasing decision making abilities.
Cases go unreported due to social stigma, family pressure, public humiliation, no response from authorities, and lack of awareness of mechanisms for redress, while reasons for the rise of sexual harassment has been absence of fear, women being increasingly viewed as sex objects, blaming dressing sense of liberated woman , fewer female police, acceptance of domestic violence, lack of safety in public, stigmatizing the woman, police apathy, harassment by police to withdraw cases and compromise, judicial slowness, few convictions, overall status of women in society, growth of social media and accessibility to pornography and other immoral activities etc.
Some possible solutions offered to curb the menace are death penalty, chemical castration, counseling, juvenile detention, fast track courts, life term, improved parenting of sons to respect the opposite gender, education in schools about these crimes, better patrolling and sensitization of the police etc.
The fallout has impacted girl’s education, confidence to travel and work, tourism and global embarrassment for the country, lack of faith in law enforcement authorities etc
Increase in the reporting’s thanks to the NGOs and the media are driving the importance of addressing such incidents and finding permanent solutions. Women are also becoming more independent and educated, which is increasing their likelihood to understand, avoid and report the atrocities thus protecting themselves and the future generations from crimes of lust and hate.
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