INCREASING RAPE CASES AND RISE OF WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
Rape is the fourth most common and under-reported crimes against women in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), India recorded an average of 87 rape cases every day in 2019 and 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women during the year 2019.
They are categorised as ‘caste rape’, ‘gang rape’, ‘class rape’, ‘rape of minors’, ‘police rape’, ‘custodial rape’, ‘army rape’. There are also other categories of rapes that are not yet acknowledged by the Indian legal system such as ‘marital rape’ and ‘rape of sex workers’.
One of the recent and major incidents called the ‘Hathras Rape Case’ (2020) that took place recently on 14th September 2020 in Uttar Pradesh (UP) that provoked the public outrage. A 19 year old Dalit woman was brutally gang-raped in a village in Hathras. Her condition degraded but she kept on fighting for her life but unfortunately lost her battle after almost a week in the Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital. Her family alleged that the police were forcibly trying to get her body cremated in the midnight. As news of her death spread, protests broke out in Delhi as well as in Hathras with all sections of society demanding justice for the deceased.
Not only this incident has caused an uproar in the society but ‘The Nirbhaya Rape-cum-Murder Case’ (2012) was the rarest of rare case, which was one of the most worst and brutal rape cases that filled every Indian with anger, shaking the conscience of humanity.
Another one i.e. ‘Kathua Rape Case’ (2018) is even more tragic, because it involves a minor of only 8 year old, who was heavily sedated, abducted and held captive in a village temple in Rasana village near Kathua, where she was repeatedly raped for 4 days and then strangled with her own scarf and bashed her head with a rock. This incident is considered to be the most barbaric and inhumane ever seen.
It is not that just these cases have brought the uproar and outburst in the society but there have been many cases going on since ages and that many of them have gone unnoticed and unreported. But there have also been some brave women who fought back and taught a lesson to those inhumane people who committed such horrendous act of not only raping them but also killing them from within turning them into a mere body of flesh. The fight back attitude and high spirits of such women gave rise to many activists who came forward to bring justice to such women by protesting against rape. Thus, bringing a platform for women to raise their voice and fight for their justice by bringing in ‘Women Movement’.
NEED FOR RISING OF ‘WOMEN MOVEMENT’:
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a new case is reported in every 20 minutes. There are even cases that we cannot imagine, many girls and women are being molested, raped and murdered but only some of them get the justice.
It was in the 1970’s that marked the beginning for the ‘Women’s Movement’ in India. The major case that initiated this movement are:
A. The Mathura Rape Case (1972):
It was this incident that took place in Maharashtra which generated an uproar on a national scale and through which the feminist groups themselves were able to assemble across the country for the very first time. In 1972, a teenage Adivasi girl in Mathura, was abducted by policemen and raped at the police station. The policemen were acquitted by the Sessions Court. Although on further appeal, they were found guilty by the High Court, the Supreme Court again reversed the High Court’s verdict and acquitted the accused.
This judgment prompted lawyers Upendra Baxi, Ragunath Kelkar, Lotika Sarkar, and Vasudha Dhagamwar to write an open letter challenging the logic of consent applied in making the judgment and with this letter, feminist groups brought the issue of rape in limelight. Forum Against Rape (later changed to Forum Against Oppression of Women), a feminist group in Mumbai, came across this letter in 1980 and decided to start a campaign for reopening of this case. This was the very first time that feminist groups co-ordinated with other groups beyond their states, making it a national movement.
B. The Rameeza Bi rape case (1978):
This incident took place in Hyderabad where a woman was raped by policemen. When her husband protested against the rape, the police murdered him and subsequently murdered the victim too. The Andhra Pradesh Government appointed Justice K. A. Muktadar to head the Commission of Inquiry that probed the rape case of Rameeza Bi and the custodial death of her husband.
The agitations of the 1980s brought the concept of ‘custodial rape’ and amendments were made in law on rape (Section 375, IPC) – the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983.
LIST OF SOME SHOCKING AND GRUESOME RAPE CASES IN INDIA:
Following is the list of some of the very cruel and gruesome cases wherein the rape was committed in a very brutal manner and the actions were so barbaric that it sent thrills to one and all:
1. Geeta Chopra Rape Case (1978)
The teenage sister-brother duo, Geeta Chopra and Sanjay Chopra were first kidnapped and then murdered in New Delhi in the year 1978. Two men, Jasbir Singh and Kuljeet Singh raped Geeta and later they killed her as well as her brother. These convicted kidnappers were arrested and sentenced to death in 1982.
2. Ajmer Rape Case (1992)
It was a brutal and inhuman case of coerced sexual exploitation in Ajmer, Rajasthan. A gang had raped over hundreds of school girls. Their naked photos were clicked by the gang and were further exploited. Many depressed victims, committed suicide after being raped.
3.Jalgaon Rape Case (1993)
It is one of the prime cases of human trafficking in Maharashtra. Near about five hundred innocent girls and women were raped and sold off, where in majorly there were school girls.
4. Delhi Gang Rape and Murder Case (2012)
16th December 2012 is the darkest day in the history of India. ‘Delhi Gang Rape and Murder’ Case, also called as ‘The Nirbhaya Rape-cum-Murder’ Case was one of the most brutal cases not only in India but in the world. It was the rarest of rare case. It filled every Indian with anger. The brutal, barbaric, and demoniacal conduct of the convicts shook the conscience of humanity.
One, 23 year old, female physiotherapy intern was beaten, gang-raped and tortured by inserting iron rod into her private parts, pulling and ripping her intestines apart, in the moving bus in Delhi. After this heinous act, she along with her injured male friend was thrown out of the bus to die at the side of the road.
All the six convicted people were arrested and one of them, Ram Singh, committed suicide on 11.03.2013 in Tihar Jail during the trial. The Supreme Court of India upheld the death penalty for the four convicts for such brutal act and spread a clear message that they don’t deserve leniency. Four of them were hanged and the young boy under 18 is sent to a juvenile home.
5. 2013 Mumbai Gang Rape or The Shakti Mills Case (2013)
This case refers to a 22 year old photojournalist who was interning at a magazine in Mumbai. On 22nd August 2013, the woman was on an assignment with her male colleague at the deserted Shakti Mills compound, near Mahalaxmi in South Mumbai. The couple was approached by a group of five men. They tied up the colleague and dragged the woman into the bushes, before taking turns to rape her. To make sure she would not report the incident, they took pictures of her and threatened to release them. The rapists also forced the victim to clean the crime scene. They took her and her co-worker and left them at the railway tracks. When she got to the hospital she was bleeding abundantly.
This caused wide public outrage and protests throughout India. Many Women’s Rights Activists, Bollywood Celebrities and Politicians protested on the streets and across social media, since Mumbai with its active nightlife was previously considered a safe heaven for women. The Sessions Court found the accused guilty and sentenced death penalty to the three repeat offenders in the Shakti Mills Gang Rape Case, making them the first in the country to get the death sentence stipulated under the newly enacted Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code.
6. Badaun Gang Rape (2014)
This case is of Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. Two girls aged 14 and 15 years were gang-raped and murdered. Their bodies were later found hanging from a tree.
7. Rohtak Gang Rape (2015)
This was yet another tragic and horrendous case of rape reported in Haryana’s Rohtak district. A 28 year old woman’s naked, half-eaten body was found with sticks and stones inserted within her. Her body was found in a terrible state suffering head injury, her skull was smashed due to blunt force, key organs such as oesophagus was missing, two arms and the left side of her body was gone and also gnawing effects were seen over her chest. The police said sticks, stones and condoms were stuffed into her private parts and her body was mutilated badly.
All the arrested men are from one village, 9 kilometers from Rohtak. The Punjab and Haryana High Court confirmed the death sentence to all the 7 convicts and fined them to the tune of Rs. 50,00,000/-. The Court has termed it as a ‘barbaric crime’ and defined the acts of the perpetrators as ‘brutal and predatory’.
8. Ranaghat Case (2015)
On 14th March 2015, a 71 year old Nun was gang-raped in Ranaghat, West Bengal by intruders at the Convent of Jesus and Mary. The six intruders were recorded on CCTV during their crime of ransacking the chapel, destroying religious items, looting cash and the gang rape. Six men were arrested and charged with the crime by 1st April 2015, and identified to be Bangladeshi Muslims.
9. Jisha Rape and Murder Case (2016)
The 30 year old woman’s body was found by her mother which had at least 30 stab wounds. Parts of her intestines had been removed using something sharp and she had a serious head injury. Later in a postmortem report, it was revealed that she was strangled, tortured and sexually assaulted before she died.
10. Delta Meghwal Rape Case (2016)
On 29th March 2016, the corpse of Delta Meghwal, a 17 year old Dalit girl was found in her hostel’s water tank. The Bikaner police arrested the hostel warden, physical education teacher and principal and were kept under judicial custody. The State eventually acceded to a CBI inquiry after the issue became politicised.
11. Unnao Rape Case (2017)
In 2017, a 17 year old girl alleged that lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar had raped her.
Later, in 2018, the alleged victim’s father was jailed under the Arms Act and died in prison after being allegedly beaten up by Sengar’s brother and several others. Also in 2018, Yunus, a witness to the alleged assault, died and was immediately buried by his family with no autopsy and no communication to police or investigators. Yunus’ wife and family said Yunus had been ill and died a natural death. Again, in 2018, the uncle of the alleged victim was arrested and jailed due to an 18 year old gun-firing case.
In July 2019, a truck with blackened license plate, hit the car in which the alleged victim and others were riding in. As a result, the victim’s paternal and maternal aunts were killed. The alleged victim and her lawyer were critically injured. The police officers assigned to provide security for the alleged victim were not present, with the explanation that there was no space in the car in which the alleged victim was travelling in.
In December 2019, the victim was on her way to the Rae Bareli Court when she was attacked by the five men who thrashed her, stabbed and set her on fire and burnt her alive. The victim ran for over a kilometre for help before eyewitnesses saw her and called for help. She suffered 90% burns in the said incident and was airlifted to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital for her treatment. But eventually she died over cardiac arrest in next couple of days after the said incident.
The five culprits were arrested in few hours after the incident and the Uttar Pradesh- BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and 6 others were sentenced for 10 years imprisonment in two cases linked to the death of the rape victim as well as the death of her father in 2018 alongwith fine of Rs. 10 lakhs to be paid by the said MLA and his brother, each to the victim’s family. Among those convicted are the then Makhi Police Station in-charge Ashok Singh Bhadauria and then Sub-Inspector K. P. Singh.
12. Kathua Rape Case or Mohd. Akhtar v. State of Jammu and Kashmir (2018)
Amongst all the rape cases listed, this story is even more tragic, as it involves a minor. Asifa Bano, an 8-year old minor girl from a nomadic tribe in Jammu and Kashmir, was raped and murdered in Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir.
She was abducted on 10th January 2018 and heavily sedated and held captive in a village temple in Kathua, where she was repeatedly raped for 4 days and then strangled with her own scarf and bashed her head with a rock. This incident is considered to be the most barbaric and inhumane ever seen. Her body was found by villagers on 17th January 2018, dumped in a forest area.
Her rape and assassination are linked to communal violence. The rape and murder, as well as the support the accused received, sparked widespread outrage. This incident made national news when charges were filed in April 2018. The arrests of the accused led to protests from groups, one of which was attended by two ministers from the Bharatiya Janata Party, both of whom have now resigned.
Three men, Sanji Ram (main accused, the priest of the family temple where the incident took place), Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar were convicted to life imprisonment of 25 years. Tilak Raj, Anand Dutta and Surender Verma were sentenced to five years in jail for destroying evidence.
13.Hathras Rape and Murder case (2020)
On 14th September 2020, a 19 year old Dalit woman who went to farm to collect cattle fodder was allegedly dragged away by her dupatta around her neck injuring her spinal cord in the process. This left her paralysed with a severe spinal cord injury. The said four men allegedly cut her tongue as well and eventually strangled her when she resisted their rape attempt.
She tried multiple times to record her statement with the police station but was rejected at first. In her three recorded statements she mentioned that she was raped and strangulated on resisting. She was initially admitted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Aligarh with her spinal cord severely damaged after which she was shifted to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi after her condition worsened.
She died on 29th September 2020. Thereby the Uttar Pradesh Police forcibly cremated the victim’s body without consent and knowledge of the victim’s family and that no respect was shown as they used petrol for the cremation.
This forced cremation led the Allahabad High Court to take suo moto cognizance. Hathras police arrested the 4 accused on charges of attempt to murder and rape and violation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. One of the accused and his father had been arrested, SSP Vikrant Vir had transferred the SHO of Chandpa Police Station to police lines for failing to promptly act in the case.
Also, the State government, Yogi Adityanath and district administration announced a compensation of Rs. 2.5 million to the victim’s family and a junior assistant job for a family member. Apart from this, the family will also be allotted a house in Hathras under State Urban Development Agency (SUDA) scheme.
MAJOR AMENDMENTS BROUGHT IN THE CRIMINAL LAWS:
The aftermath of various gruesome incidents, specially the Gang Rape of a student in Delhi on 16th December 2012 (Nirbhaya Rape Case), led to countrywide anxiety. Following the protests, a Verma Committee under the leadership of Retd. Justice Verma was constituted to come up with recommendations for the amendment to the law relating to sexual offences. The Committee rendered its report and accordingly changes were brought after the heavy demonstrations and protests throughout the country post Nirbhaya Rape Case. 90% of the recommendations were taken from the Justice Verma Committee Report in Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 brought under this case.
The 2013 Amendment Act was promulgated with amendments in Section 375 of IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act, to make the laws against rape and sexual assaults against women more stringent. This was the first time the ‘permanent vegetative state’ was included since the landmark ‘Aruna Shanbaug case’ – the case of Euthanasia’; where the Indian nurse named Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug spent 37 years in a ‘permanent vegetative state’ as a result of sexual assault. Finally, in 2018, the Supreme Court of India legalised Passive Euthanasia by means of withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state. On 9th March, 2018, the Supreme court of India passed a historic judgement-law permitting Passive Euthanasia in the country. It is a landmark law which places the power of choice in the hands of the individual, over the government, medical or religious control which sees all suffering as ‘destiny’.
SOME OF THE SALIENT FEATURES OF THE 2013 ACT ARE:
1. New offences like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism, disrobing a woman, stalking have now been incorporated into the Indian Penal Code as well as enhanced punishment for such crimes along with that of rape, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch etc. has also been added.
2. Definition of rape has been widened to include non-penetrative sex as well.
3. Provisions for aggravated rape expanded to include rape committed by a person in a position of dominance, by a member of the armed forces deployed in an area, rape committed during communal or sectarian violence or on a woman incapable of giving consent.
4. Increased penalty for gang rape and causing serious injury to the victim resulting her to remain in a vegetative state.
5. Increased sentence for rape convicts, including life-term and death sentence.
6. Insertion of new provisions casting a duty on all hospitals public, private run by the Central Government or State Government to provide first aid or medical treatment, free of cost to victims of any offence defined under Section 326, 375 ad 376 (acid attack and rape).
7. Further, Section 370 and 370A IPC provides for comprehensive measures to counter the menace of human trafficking including trafficking of children for exploitation in any form including physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.
8. Also the age of consent has been increased from 16 years to 18 years, and any sexual activity with anyone less than age of 18, irrespective of consent, now constitutes statutory rape.
SOME OF THE SALIENT FEATURES OF THE 2018 ACT ARE:
1. Anyone committing an offence of rape shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for minimum period of 10 years which was initially 7 years;
2. Anyone raping a girl of below 12 years of age, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for not less than 20 years which may extend to imprisonment for life and with fine or with death; [sec. 376AB];
3. The amendment under S. 376 additionally provides a provision which deals with punishment for gang rape on woman as well as also specifies about the fine to be payable to the victim of rape;
4. While accused involved in the gangrape of a girl below 16 years of age, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and with fine; [sec 376DA];
5. While accused involved in the gangrape of a girl below 12 years of age, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and with fine or with death; [sec 376DB];
6. Also, the relief of anticipatory bail has been taken away in the case where the rape has been committed on a woman below 16 years of age.
7. If the offence of rape, is committed by the Police Officer, irrespective of the place, he shall be punished for rigorous imprisonment which is not less than 10 years.
8. In the matter of rape, the police are under compulsion to complete the Investigation within the period of 2 months after the FIR is lodged.
9. Convicted persons are bound to compensate the victim, and such compensation will be used for the victim’s medical expenses and for rehabilitation. And the compensation will be just and reasonable.
10. The appeal shall be disposed within period of 6 months from the date of filing of such appeal.
CONCERNS OVER FALSE CASES
There have been many legitimate cases all across the nation but there have been instances where such cases have given rise to potential abuses against innocent males by false allegations put up by women for either revenge or extortion.
According to various reports and as per observations by certain dignitaries such as Judges of the Delhi High Courtand also some editorials have even published and suggested that by merely relying on the sole attestation of the victim has become an “easy weapon” for the women to incriminate anyone in rape case and also that penal provisions are often misused by women for the purpose of vengeance to harass and extort money and blackmail their male friends and force them to get married by filing false cases against them. Also, sadly it has become a fashion to create sensation and as publicity stunts by charging someone for molestation or rape by certain women.
In 2014, as per a report submitted by Delhi Commission for Women, 53% of reported rapes in 2012-13 were found to be ‘false’. So, there have been many suggestions put forth by the activists supporting the males who have been falsely vicitimized and have demanded that the name of the accused should not be made public till conviction. The aforementioned count of false cases which were dropped even before going to trial, failed to differentiate between the cases which were clear that the women were lying or were dropped because of coercion.
According to the report in an investigation conducted in Delhi, out of those 460 cases that went to full trial in the District Courts in 2013, only 2% were found to be committed by complete strangers, 24% were filed under breach of promise to marry, whereas 30% were found to be committed by acquaintances and relatives while 41% were filed by parents to criminalise and end consented sexual relationships.
JUDICIARY TO TAKE QUICK AND STRINGENT ACTION – NEED OF THE HOUR
The Judiciary and the Legislature have to make many amendments if the rape laws are to be of any deterrence. As Indian Laws strictly follow the concept of ‘Not single innocent man shall be punished for the wrongs not done by him’, this leads to pro-longing enquiry and investigation causing too much time lapse leading to lingering of matters. At the same time, it is also the duty of the judiciary to remember that ‘Justice delayed is Justice denied’. Hence stringent and speedy action must be taken and appropriate punishment should be inflicted to the offenders in a time-bound manner as delay in the procedure will tamper with justice.
Also, mere arrest of the offenders will not solely suffice. The courts have to comprehend the fact that these conscienceless criminals who sometimes even mutilate and torture their victims who even include small children are not going to be deterred by a shorter span of imprisonment. Therefore, in the best interest of justice and society, such criminals involved in heinous crimes and implicating animal like cruel and torturous behaviour on their victims should be sentenced to rigorous punishment, life imprisonment and the death penalty in most gruesome rape incidences. Also spreading the message to the society at large that the punishments imparted thereby are deterrent in nature and that no heinous crime will ever be condoned or given mercy or shown any kind of leniency to the offenders.
THE ROLE AND NEED OF EDUCATION AND AWARENESS IN THE SOCIETY
Not only is the Judiciary responsible to look after the events that have already happened and punish the offenders but we as society also play a main role in failing to nurture the minds of the children. In order to reduce and prevent happening of such horrific acts, we need to instil a sense of respect and empathy towards every other being and this needs to be taught to the people in their early and tender age.
As it is truly believed that ‘Prevention is better than cure.’ Proper education related to health issues, relationship advices and the concept of consent needs to be taught to the children while still in high school as a part of adolescent peer education programme. The teenage years is such an age where adolescents frequently feel attraction for a friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex. They need to be made understood that it is normal to have special feelings for someone. It is important for adolescents to understand that such relationships are based on mutual consent, trust, transparency and respect. They should talk and share about such feelings in a respectful manner, but at the same time they should also understand and accept that the other person may or may not feel the same as them. It is also important for boys to understand that when a girl says ‘no’ it means ‘NO’.
It is today’s young minds who are going to be the bright future of our country as well as the world. It is our social duty to impart this awareness and strengthen their mind and emotions so that they do not harm or hurt others making it a safe and peaceful place for all beings to live together.