Opinion: Will the new criminal law curb crimes against women in India?

Written By: Anushka Dixit
Delhi, India Updated: Sep 04, 2018, 03:30 PM(IST)

Representative image. Photograph:( PTI )

Story highlights

When it comes to crimes against women, almost all categories have seen an uptick in recent years - with thousands of cases of dowry harassment, assault, kidnapping, and rape registered in the last year alone. 

Several women and girls have been victims of crimes and sexual violence in India – and the latest report by the National Crime Records Bureau indicate that crimes against women have increased by 34 per cent in the last four years.  

As many as 2.5 million crimes against women have been reported in India over the last decade. Reported cases of crime against women increased 83 per cent from 185,312 in 2007 to 338,954 in 2016, data from NCRB showed. 

When it comes to crimes against women, almost all categories have seen an uptick in recent years - with thousands of cases of dowry harassment, assault, kidnapping, and rape registered in the last year alone. 

A report by NCRB published in 2017 indicated that the majority of cases categorised as crimes against women were reported under ‘cruelty by husband or his relatives’ (32.6 per cent), followed by ‘assault on woman with intent to outrage her modesty’ (25 per cent), ‘kidnapping and abduction of woman’ (19 per cent) and ‘rape’ (11.5 per cent). 

A report by Thomson Reuters Foundation earlier this year tagged India as the world’s most dangerous place for women, citing declining cultural practices, sexual violence, and trafficking. When the same poll was conducted in 2011, India ranked fourth after Afghanistan, Congo, and Pakistan. 

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 1.41.58 PM.png

Conviction Rate lowest 

Considering the social stigma attached to it or the ordeal a victim goes through , it’s highly likely that the number of crimes being reported as well as the number of suspects being convicted are rather low.  

A report by the Human Rights Watch from last year presented that the victims and survivors of sexual assault in India have to go through callous treatment from the police, doctors, and even lawyers throughout the process of holding culprits responsible. 

The year 2016 saw the lowest conviction rate (18.9 per cent) – out of the total number of crime cases registered only 18.9 per cent of them ended in conviction of the culprit for crimes against women. 

The two cases, the after math and the new law 

The two sickening recent crimes – in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir in January this year and in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh last year – put a big question mark on security and public institutions. The criminal laws of the past are not congruent with what is going on in today’s time.  

In his 47th "Mann Ki Baat" programme PM Modi had said, "No civilised society can tolerate any kind of injustice towards women. The nation will not tolerate those committing rapes. With this point in view, Parliament has made a provision of strictest punishment by passing the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill." 

The new bill, which was passed by the Parliament earlier in August this year, was replaced by the Criminal Law Ordinance, promulgated by President Ram Nath Kovind on April 22. In light of the increased number of rape incidents in the country, a set of new measures to amend the Protection of Child from Sexual Offence Act (POCSO) were approved.  

The new bill entails that criminals will face minimum of 20 years of jail which may go up to life in prison or death penalty, for the rape of a girl under 12 years of age. While perpetrators involved in the gang-rape of a girl below 12 years would get life imprisonment or death penalty.   

PM Modi said that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act will act as a deterrent against rape and also play an effective role in curbing crimes against women and young girls.

To what extent will these laws be effective?

Since the new law has been passed, numerous rape cases have been registered. A teenager was raped in Delhi by two men, a 14-year-old girl was raped and killed in Thane, a woman was abducted and gang-raped by four men and dumped on a highway in Assam, a teen attempted suicide in Gujarat after being raped by relatives – and these are just some cases “registered” in the last week of August.  

The chilling Delhi gang-rape five years ago brought heightened awareness over sexual crimes against women, which tapered down within few months. Similar was the case with the Kathua and Unnao incident - much outcry was made over justice for women after the incidents, but that did not work as a deterrent.

Although, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 (Nirbhaya Act) was enacted after the Delhi gang-rape, but this has not had much impact. There has not been any development in an ideal crime control system simply because more emphasis is given to proof rather than the truth.  The root cause lies in the patriarchal mentalities.  

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Anushka Dixit

Anushka is digital news writer at WION. Her primary getaway is music and baking. Besides news, she has a passion for writing about artificial intelligence, market trends and scientific discoveries.

Read in App