Alarming rates of the events of sexual assaults
The malicious act of rape of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir, sent chills down to everyone’s spine in the country. Regardless of all laws and policies constructed by the government, attention by media, protests and candle marches, cases of rapes are still hiking with an increasing pace. According to NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), the total number of victims of rapes at the national level registered a rise in the past decade. Numbers of cases recorded in 2011 were 23,646, which hiked to 34,771 in 2015, which further increased to 39,068 in 2016. The severity of the issue can be addressed by considering that within a year the number of victims of rapes hiked by 12.35% in 2016.
The statistics of the various reports can be misleading because most of the cases of sexual assault remain unreported. According to the report of NCRB (2015), in 630 cases, victims were allegedly raped by their grandfather, father, brother and son while in 1,087 cases the accused were acquaintances. As most of the times assault is perpetrated by a family member, the victim is pressurized and not allowed to file any case. The traumatizing experience of sexual assault implants a fear of social exclusion, therefore, to evade social marginalization and embarrassment victims do not report their case
According to the report of NCRB, at the beginning of 2016, over 118,537 cases of rape were pending at the courts. At the end of the year, the pending cases went up to 133,813, an increase of 12.5%; it indicates a very poor rate of conviction. One of the major characteristics of rape is the non-consensual act of intercourse and it is tough to prove in the court if there was consent of the victim or not, which leads to a further diminishing rate of conviction.
Indian Government’s approach to the events rapes
The Indian Government tried to bring down the increasing graph of events of sexual assaults by ‘The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018’. The bill made the penalties more severe by amending Section 376 of the IPC (India Penal Code). After the amendment, the act of rape will attract a punishment of rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and with a fine.
To deliver the justice as soon as possible, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018 directs that “investigation in relation to all rape cases shall be completed within a period of two months from the date on which the information recorded by the officer-in-charge of the police station.”
After the tormenting event of rape, in most of the cases, the victim is left behind by the culprits in a crucial need of medical attention. Therefore, according to Article 357C of IPC, all hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies or any other person, shall immediately, provide the first-aid or medical treatment, free of cost, to the victims of any offence of sexual assaults.
For eradication of the problem, there should be special investigating teams for the disposal of the cases related to sexual assault and rapes. These teams must be time bounded for the disposal of any case. The time limit must be decided according to the complexities present in the case. These investigating teams will help to enhance the conviction rate and to deliver justice as soon as possible.
To increase the conviction rate further, there must be the establishment of fast track Sexual Offences Court (SOC), which will be equipped with specially trained individuals from a number of agencies in the criminal justice system and beyond. These courts will be able to deliver verdict swiftly as there will be relatively less burden on them than ordinary courts. Similar court has been established in South Africa under their ‘anti-rape strategy’. Evaluation studies have found significantly higher conviction rates for cases of rape and sexual violence in South Africa. Average conviction rates of between 70% and 95% have been reported for SOCs in South Africa (Thomas et al, 2011). By contrast, the South African Law Commission (2001) reports an average conviction rate for rape (all ages) countrywide of 8.9% in 1998.
The death penalty can be used for the deterrence of the crime. Considering the concept of proportionate punishment, every convict of rape cannot be penalised with death. Capital punishment can be given in the cases of extreme brutality and violence which hold severe repercussions.
There should be an encouragement in the society to report the cases of sexual assaults. Victims tend to avoid reporting the case due to the fear of social marginalisation and embarrassment. Victims must be assured that their identity will not be disclosed publicly to save them from embarrassment. With the increase in the number of reported cases, the courts will be able to deliver justice to more victims.
Even after the continuous efforts by the government events of rapes are still managing to find their way in the news. India is now considered to be one of the most unsafe countries in the world for women. Around 2,170 cases of rapes in 2016 were recorded in the national capital of the country, making it the ‘Rape Capital.’ The assaults can be prevented by increasing conviction rate as it will implant the fear of getting penalised in potential perpetrators. Females constitute around 48% population of India and to ensure their maximum contribution in various spheres of the country, a safe space for them is a necessity.
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Image Credit: Reuters
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