On a cold winter night in December 2012, a gang rape in a bus on the roads of Delhi shocked the nation, leading to widespread public outbursts, forcing the then Congress Government to take notice and act. Exactly two years later, again on a cold winter night on the roads of Delhi, there is another rape.
In these two years, do you think the number of rapes, harassment and violence against women has come down? What changes exactly took place in the legal system? How far are these implemented and enforced? To what extent are they successful? What measures did the Government take during these two years for the protection of women?
Let’s take an overview on the improvements of the legal system, especially for women’s protection, undertaken after the Nirbhaya gang rape and ponder whether we are on the right track or not.
Improvements in legal system
In December 2012, due to huge public protests, a judicial inquiry committee was set up so as to study the scenario and make recommendations to amend the present laws for effective prosecution of sex offenders. More than 80,000 suggestions from the public were considered and the committee submitted a report in which it was mentioned that the root causes behind crimes against women were the failures on the part of the Government and police. Subsequently, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 was promulgated.
Certain stringent changes in laws have been made and six new fast-track courts were set up only for rape cases. The objective was to reduce the number of rapes and sexual harassment cases. The amended laws have made it clear that there is now harsh sentence for rape convicts, which include death as well as life term penalty, stringent punishment for other offences against women like eve teasing, acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. Various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act have also been amended by the Government.
According to law, a rape convict can be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than 20 years, and can extend till his natural death. Rape convicts who are repeat offenders can be sentenced to death. Stalking and voyeurism, for the first time, have been considered as non-bailable offences, while an acid attack convict can be sentenced to a 10-year imprisonment.
Safety measures in public transport for women
Some measures taken by the Government for the safety of women in Delhi are as follow:
- Installation of GPS devices on all public buses
- Verification of the crew of all public transport vehicles, including owners of chartered buses
- Appointment of lady police officers
- Increasing the number of PCR vans
- Recruiting more people for the proper running of transport department
- Introduction of Home Guards in the night buses of DTC
- Police verification of school bus staff
- CCTV cameras at various places in Delhi. At present, CCTV cameras are operational at 34 markets and four border check posts in Delhi.
- The Government announced in 2013 that verification needs to be done by the Delhi police on all passenger vehicle drivers and after that the transport department would issue public service vehicle (PSV) badge to them.
So far GPS is installed in 6321 DTC and cluster buses, 45,000 in autos, 5,549 chartered buses, while the actual number of public transport vehicles is much more than this. So far, over two lakh PSV badges have been issued and 3,000 auto and taxi owners’ addresses have been sent for verification. In fact, after the Nirbhaya case, the only measures that have been successful to a certain extent are DTC’s night service which increased from 42 to 80 buses now and the services of ladies buses have also increased to 26.
Immediately after the gang rape, several laws were amended, cases were heard promptly but the number of pending cases continues to rise. According to the reports of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of rapes in the last 40 years in the country has increased eight-fold. Compared to other serious crimes like robbery, murder, kidnapping, the rise in the number of rape cases is more. In 2012, a total of 24,923 rapes in India were reported, out of which only 24% resulted in convictions. Till October 2013, rape complaints went up by as much as 125%, compared with the previous year.
According to NCRB data, the number of rapes reported in India was 33,707 in 2013. Between October, 2012 and October, 2013, the number of molestation complaints increased by 440%. According to 2012 statistics, New Delhi has the highest number of rape reports among Indian cities. According to a recent compilation of data by Delhi police, 616 rapes and 1,336 molestation cases were registered between January 1 and April 30, 2014, which is 36% increase compared to the previous year. Considering the latest statistics of the NCRB, 93 women in India are being raped everyday.
Where we stand now? Do we see any change?
Sorry to say, considering the statistical information given above, not much change has been seen. Delhi is still unsafe for women. Not only Delhi, all other States of India are equally vulnerable. In spite of amendments in the legal system, in spite of adopting safety measures in public transport, things have not improved so far. But, yes, to a certain extent, women have come forward to report these issues and fight for their rights, which was initially a taboo in the Indian society. Maybe that is the reason, the number of reported cases has risen. But again, lot many questions come to our mind. Police reforms, law reforms, strict punishments, educational reforms, rape crisis centres, counselling, public transport safety are just the amendments that we can think of for women’s safety.
But, how can we change the minds of the perverts of our country?