Crime Against Women: Where is “Nari Tu Narayani”
By Dr. Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*
Violence against women in India and the world is devastatingly pervasive and was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic triggering harm to millions of women and their families, especially younger women among those most at risk. According to WHO, one in three women globally experiences violence.
Despite the such, deplorable state of women, there is a lot of talk about women empowerment, Nari Shakti or Nari Tu Narayani, “Amrit Kaal” in India to divert the attention of people from real problems plaguing the nation and women. In his 76th Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed ‘Nari Shakti’, emphasized gender equality, urged to respect women, advised not to lower the dignity of women, and treat daughters and sons equally. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has talked about ‘Nari Tu Narayani’ in her 2019 Budget speech.
But just a few hours after the PM’s Independence Day speech, 11 rapists in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case were prematurely released from jail by Prime Minister ‘s own state Gujarat through outdated remission law when new law prevents such remission. What is reprehensible is that rapists walked out of prison to a hero’s welcome, while relatives gave them sweets and touched their feet to show respect.
The disconcerting news is that over a 15 percent rise in crime against women in 2021 portends how Nari Shakti was annihilated, and “ Nari Tu Narayani” concept was smothered. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2021, cases of crime against women rose to 4,28,278 in 2021 showing an increase of 56,775 cases or 15.3 percent from 3,71,503 cases in 2020.
While Assam tops states in terms of the rate of crime against women, Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of such cases in the year 2021. Similarly, the rate of crime against women, or the number of incidents per 1 lakh population, also went up from 56.5 in 2020 to 64.5 in 2021. With 56,083 cases, Uttar Pradesh- where the success of the double engine is talked about- topped the list of crimes against women, followed by Rajasthan (40,738) and Maharashtra (39,526), West Bengal (33,247) and Maharashtra (33,182), Odisha (27792).
Delhi is the capital of India where all Members of Parliament, ministers including the Prime Minister and President, and top bureaucrats stay. Police are run by the Central government. But NCRB data reveals Delhi is the most unsafe for women. Two minor girls were raped every day in 2021.
In India, a total of 31,677 rape cases were registered in 2021, or around 87 rape cases every day on average – as compared to 28,046 cases in 2020, a 19.34 percent increase in rape cases last year when compared to 2020. With 6,337 rape cases, Rajasthan reported the highest number of rape cases followed by 2,947 in Madhya Pradesh and 2,845 in Uttar Pradesh. Nagaland registered the least cases of rape (4) in 2021, followed by Sikkim.
The data also reveals that across India, in 96.5 percent of rape cases, the offender was known to the woman. Of the total 31,677 rape cases, 28,147 or nearly 89 percent of the rapes were committed either by friends (including online friends), live-in partners (on the pretext of marriage), separated husbands or family friends, employers, or other known persons. The conviction rate in rape cases across India remained abysmally low at 24.8 percent in 2021 with only 156 cases convicted and around 22,313 cases currently under trial.
Crimes against women include cases of rape, molestation, acid attack, cruelty by husband/his relatives, and domestic violence, among others. Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights. The grim reality of “Amrit Kaal” is faced by women when they are found unsafe in the family and raped by known people.
The NCRB report also noted, “Majority of cases under crime against women under IPC were registered under ‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives’ (31.8 percent) followed by ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (20.8 percent), ‘Kidnapping & Abduction of Women’ (17.6 percent) and ‘Rape’ (7.4 percent). The NCRB report also corroborates the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 report. According to (NFHS), nearly one-third of women in India have experienced physical or sexual violence.
Nothing captures the enormity of India’s rape crisis better than the string of accusations against leaders of its ruling BJP party which prides itself on being a party with a difference. It’s so many leaders have been accused of ghastly crimes or often trying to shield alleged rapists – say the Unnao rape case in 2017, the Kahua rape case in 2018, or Yogi Adityanath government’s withdrawal of the case against Chinmayananda in 2017, accused of raping a 7-year-old girl. Those tantamount to license to rape.
The truth of “Nari Tu Narayani” is belied when legislators are found entwined in criminal cases. According to the ADR report, of the 539 winning candidates, as many as 233 MPs, or 43 percent have criminal charges in the new Lok Sabha, a 26 percent increase as compared to 2014. The BJP has 116 MPs with criminal cases, followed by 29 MPs from Congress, 13 from the JDU, 10 from the DMK, and nine from the TMC.
The tragedy is that women are viciously tortured but fail to protest for fear of being further humiliated by police or in court or through social ostracization. Recently, the wife of a retired IAS officer and BJP leader, the state convenor of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign in Jharkhand has been arrested for brutally torturing and inhumanely treating her 29-year-old domestic help named Sunita for six years.
The gruesome nature of cruelty is manifested as Sunita was beaten up with a hot Tawa and rods, and was made to lick urine off the floor even made to drink urine. She was in a state of mental trauma when she was rescued. Even after six years of torture, the woman said that she was still unaware of why she was being punished daily.
When PM Modi’s, “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao has become a joke on social media: “BJP Se Beti Bachao”. People ask questions: Why does the BJP say ‘Beti Bachao’ and then do ‘Balatkari Bachao’, over and over again?
According to WHO, violence -in all its forms can have an impact on a woman’s health and well-being throughout the rest of her life – even long after the violence may have ended. It is associated with an increased risk of injuries, depression, anxiety disorders, unplanned pregnancies, sexually-transmitted infections including HIV, and many other health problems. It has impacts on society as a whole and comes with enormous costs, impacting national budgets and overall development.
Hence, preventing violence requires addressing systemic economic and social inequalities, ensuring access to education and safe work, and changing discriminatory gender norms and institutions. Successful interventions also include strategies that ensure essential services are available and accessible to survivors; support women’s organizations, challenge inequitable social norms, reform discriminatory laws and strengthen legal responses, among others.
The author is an Odisha-based eminent columnist/economist and social thinker. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.