India-Rape-Protest
AP Photo/Altaf Qadri
Fighting back.
GRIM TALE

92 women are raped in India every day, but crime data offers some silver linings

By Devjyot Ghoshal

On an average, 92 women were raped in India every single day last year.

By themselves, the latest numbers on sexual violence are grim and point in one direction—that crimes against women in the subcontinent have sharply increased in 2013.

But there’s more to it. Some of this happening probably because more Indian women are coming out and reporting these crimes than ever before.

Perhaps something has really changed since December 2012, when the brutal assault on a young woman in New Delhi triggered unprecedented protests nationwide and nearly paralyzed the national capital.

Across the ranges of crimes monitored by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2013, almost every category has seen an unusual rise—including sexual harassment cases, which curiously dipped during the economic slowdown.

no-caption

Although abductions and kidnappings have increased the most since 2006, the number of reported rapes has seen a sudden jump since 2012. This is despite the fact that estimates suggest only one in 10 rapes is actually reported in India.

This spurt in reporting could’ve been a result of the constant “media and civil society focus on crimes against women,” Kalpana Viswanath, a researcher and women’s rights activist told The Hindu newspaper.

And after all, in the three months after the December gang rape in New Delhi, the number of rapes reported in the city did more than double.

no-caption

But this isn’t an even phenomenon nationwide.

In states where the greatest numbers of rapes were reported in 2013, there has been a substantial increase in the quantities of cases reported compared to 2012.

On the other hand, in West Bengal, which has seen a handful of controversial sexual assault incidents in the last few years, the number of rapes reported has fallen from 2046 in 2012 to 1685 in 2013.

The trend has been more muddled in cities where the most rapes cases were reported in 2013. In some, such as New Delhi and Mumbai, the numbers have increased significantly.

Other cities, like Jaipur, however, have witnessed a marginal decline, though the absolute number remains in the worst five nationwide.

no-caption

The question, of course, is whether India’s already-stretched police and judiciary can aid the increasing numbers coming out to report these crimes?

The data on the police actually indicate a slight improvement in performance. In 2012, investigations into only about 64.5% of rape cases were completed, where in 2013 that number went up to 68.5%, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

But significant problems remain. Earlier this year in Uttar Pradesh, for instance, villagers protested after police allegedly refused to register a rape case involving two minor girls.

Indian courts, too, have a staggering backlog of about 31 million cases, which invariably delays the process, although now law makes provision for ‘fast-track’ courts in rape cases.

Despite such concerns, an improvement in reporting and trials certainly seems to be underway. And that is of consequence in a country where such crimes are still thought to be grossly under-reported.