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Rape in India

Shaardhool Shreenath and Muskan Tyagi

The alleged rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, late last month yet again pointed to how India is — as Priyanka Dubey writes in her eponymous books— “No Nation for Women”. Recent data from the NCRB on the rising cases of reported rape also substantiates this claim.

“Crimes against women” has increased significantly in the past year, according to data from 2019 Crimes in India report by the NCRB.

As we can notice in Figure 1 (above), the total number of crimes against women has increased by more than 20,000 from 2018 to 2019.

This need not imply a rise in the crimes committed against women specifically. However, this could indicate that the number of women who were willing to come forward and admit to being a victim of a crime, has increased significantly. This could also imply that the system of filing FIR’s has gotten more efficient when compared to previous years.

As we can notice in Figure 2 (above), the most common crime against women is Cruelty/Assault by Husband and Relatives which constitutes about 30.9% of the total crimes which sums up to about 1,25,411 cases approximately. “Rape”constitutes only a small part of the total crimes committed against women which is about 7.9% of all crimes against women, or about 32,063 in actual figures.

In Figure 3 (below), you can see a state-wise breakdown of the number of rape cases reported around the country. From the total rape cases that were recorded in 2019, Rajasthan topped the list with 5997 cases. However, when looking at the number of cases filed based on population density, Chandigarh has the higher percentage share. Here, the percentage share indicates the average number of rape cases which occurred among 1 lakh women. So, while the actual number of cases recorded in Chandigarh is 112, the average number of rape instances which occur among 1 lakh women is 20.7%,whereas it is 15.9% in Rajasthan.

It is important to note that all the figures mentioned so far exclude minority communities. The NCRB report classifies communities and identifies cases within a given community as well. In Figure 4 and 5, the charts show the total number of crimes committed against Schedule castes and Schedule Tribes s and what is the percentage share of rapes in the total crime figures.

When you compare the above two pie-charts, you would notice that the actual number of SC cases under rape is higher than ST’s, whereas we see a higher percentage share of ST cases under rape when you calculate the percentage of rape cases to the total criminal cases against both communities.

The National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) release annual reports with records of all casesfiled in a given year. These reports classify crimes based on provisions given by the IPC and provide comprehensive figures from each state and union territory in the country. While these are structured records, they aren’t always accurate. These reports only show the number of cases that are actually filed by the police. However, there are numerous cases which go unnoticed and don’t get filed, which was the case with Hathras.

“There are 106 women who are raped every day in India. Four out of every 10 of these victims are minor girls. This means more than four girls are raped every hour in the country. This is essentially saying that in less than every 15 minutes, one woman is raped somewhere in India.” writes Priyanka Dubey in her book, No Nation for Women — Reportage on Rape from India, the World’s Largest Democracy. Dubey has documented 13 crimes in the past each vastly different from the other, from stories of human trafficking, corrective rape, caste violence, murder, child abuse to sexual crimes against the De-notified Tribes of India, custody rape, and even using rape as a tool for establishing Caste supremacy.

In all the stories the victim is from a lower caste family who has been targeted by upper caste families from generations. Priyanka starts the book by writing about the 'corrective' rape and murder that took place in Bundelkhand, 'An Eighteen-Year-Old Burnt Alive After Rape'. The teenage girl rejected to upperclassmen and in revenge, she was brutally raped and later the men soaked her body in kerosene and burnt her. This was their way of “warning the girls to never say 'no' to men or there will be lethal consequences.”

The girl name was Kalabai and the incident took place on 20 March 2010. She suffered 95 per cent burnt and after 24 hours she passed away. Kalabai's mother Phoolbai informed Priyanka that before dying Kalabai told the doctors about her murderers but they have still not received justice. When asked the police officials about the case, an official said, "The victim family comes under the scheduled tribes, so the case has been registered under the SCST Act. Thus, the delay." Phoolbai is still fighting for justice as the police haven't done anything.Their daughter became a story and has been forgotten very quickly because neither did they ever receive the copy of FIR nor their government lawyer initiated to contact them. .

Another case, The Bhagana gang rape case is also featured in this book. Janvi, Sushma, Leela and Meena were abducted from Bhagana and raped on 23 March 2014. These girls belonged from the Dalit families and were raped by the upper caste of the village, 'The Jats'. This act was done to show the Dalits and Chammar's their place over a piece of land. This fight is just not between upper cast and lower caste people but it involves government officials , who are considered another privileged with power. Priyanka Dubey has reported about cases where those privileged with power don’t value a human belonging from the lower caste.In 2015, a 14 year old girl, from a village in Uttar Pradesh was abducted by the police officials from right in front of her house. She was taken to the nearest chowki and was raped multiple times and later was dropped back to her house with a warning.

Dubey ends by saying, “I hope these chapters add to our collective understanding of the crisis of rape in India. Acknowledging and understanding are the first steps towards fighting sexual crimes against women.”

Edited by Ishita Dang