Recently, a former lawmaker from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been convicted of rape in one of the year’s most high profile cases. Kuldeep Sengar, 51, was tried under child protection laws as the survivor was 17 when she was assaulted in 2017. The woman, who can’t be named under Indian laws, alleges that she had approached Sengar for a job in June 2017 and she was kidnapped and raped for more than a week by him and others. The case first came to national attention last year when the woman tried to set herself on fire, alleging police inaction. The BJP came in for sharp criticism over the fact that Sengar had remained in the party despite the serious allegations against him he was expelled only in August this year. The verdict comes in the wake of the gang-rape and murder of a 27 year old vet in the southern city of Hyderabad that made global headlines last month.
Indian police shot dead four men who were suspected of raping and killing a 27 year old veterinarian in the city of Hyderabad, drawing applause from her family and citizens outraged over crimes against women. It is important to mention that more than 32,500 cases of rape were registered with the police in 2017, about 90 a day, according to the most recent government data. Indian courts disposed of only about 18,300 cases related to rape that year, leaving more than 127,800 cases pending at the end of 2017. Instances of brutal rape and violence against the women who report it have given India the dismal reputation of being one of the worst places in the world to be female.
The crime sparked large-scale protests and led thousands of women across India to break their silence over sexual violence that often goes unreported. Authorities stiffened penalties against sex crimes, introduced fast-track trials in rape cases and made stalking a crime. Five women were raped and eight were molested everyday on an average in New Delhi. According to Delhi Police data, 2,043 cases of rapes were registered last year as compared to 2,059 cases the year before that and 2,065 cases in 2016. Last year, 3,175 cases of molestation were reported as compared to 3,275 cases the year before and 4,032 cases in 2016. In most of the rape cases, the accused were known to the victim.
Moreover, 43 per cent of the accused in rape cases were either friends or family friends, 16.25 per cent were neighbours, 12.04 per cent were relatives, 2.89 per cent were colleagues, 22.86 per cent were other known persons. A meager 2.5 per cent of the accused were not known to the victim, police said, adding that this was a decline from the previous years. Some of the sensational rape cases reported from the national capital included the rape of an employee of a multinational company by two of her colleagues in southwest Delhi’s Vasant Kunj in October and the rape of a visually impaired woman by her neighbour in central Delhi’s Deshbandhu Gupta Road area in May last year.
Talking about the growing incidents of brutal crimes against women in India, Rahul Gandhi had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks about “Make in India, but nowadays wherever you look, it is Rape in India”. “Make in India” is a government project aimed at making the country a global manufacturing hub. Several MPs from Mr Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused Mr Gandhi of “insulting India”, and said his turn of phrase could almost be taken as an invitation to rape Indian women, and demanded that he apologies for his remark. But Mr Gandhi refused to say sorry he instead pointed out that Mr Modi himself had described Delhi as the “rape capital” several times when the BJP was in opposition. As proof, he tweeted a video clip from Mr Modi’s election campaign before the 2014 general election. Mr Gandhi also said that BJP MPs were trying to disrupt parliament over his rape remark because they wanted to divert attention from real issues like the country’s economic slowdown and the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill which has angered parts of the country.
Apart from rape, women in India are victim of almost all kinds of violence such as honour killings, domestic violence, abduction, dowry deaths etc. The women living in insurgency infested areas are victims of duel violence. On the one hand they are victimized by army personnel and on the other by rival ethnic groups. Similarly, women other than Hindus particularly Muslims and Christians are victims of hate crime. Not all sexual harassment and rape cases are reported in India. But by considering the reported cases it becomes evident that in India a women is raped every 29th minute. The NCRB unearthed some extremely disturbing trends in India. Statistics suggest that in 2005 around 50 women were raped and 480 molested and abducted every day. The gravity of the problem is that Indian laws are not very strict for such type of violence against women. No capital punishment is awarded in such cases. Apart from harassment, throwing strong acids such sulphuric acid on the face of the girls and women is rampant in India. This is the most heinous and severe punishment deserving crime. There is no separate law to deal with acid attackers in India.
There is a need that BJP government should take urgent measures to create awareness through education on the need to end such social crimes against women and initiate comprehensive measures to curb honour killings, acid attacking, rape and dowry deaths etc. In India, there is no respect for women, Dalits and minorities. The government needs to realize that acid attacks and other brutal assaults on women are a manifestation of an ingrained inequality. These attacks are not just about the women they target, they are also about the society that allows such attacks, the hierarchies it has internalized and the voices of protest it has silenced.