From castration to death sentence for rapes, India has debated steps to check rapists but done little to prevent the crime - the fastest growing among all violent offences in this country of 1.2 billion people.
The chances of an Indian woman being raped have nearly doubled over
the past two decades, but the probability of conviction has declined by a third, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
The message is clear: India is a dangerous place for women. From the khap-dominated Haryana to "progressive" Bengal, rape is a grim reality in India with triggers that are as diverse as the socio-economic and cultural fabric of the country.
Every 20 minutes, a woman is raped in India. Every third victim of rape is a child, according to 2011 figures from the NCRB. The accused is convicted in only one of every four cases where trial is completed, often stretched over several years.
Worse, pendency of rape cases in trial courts has increased from 78% to 83% over the past two decades.Madhya Pradesh topped the list among the states with the highest number of reported rape cases last year.
Haryana reported at least a dozen rapes in the past month - a spurt that prompted Congress president Sonia Gandhi to rush to Jind where a Dalit girl burnt herself to death after being gang-raped.
Beyond the numbers
The NCRB numbers capture only those cases that are reported to police, but officials agree that many rapes go unreported due to social stigma.
Also, "it is quite possible that the police, in some places, discourage victims from pressing charges," said a senior police officer who didn't want to be named.
That might be an understatement. It took the police days to register a case when another victim of rape in Haryana's Jind district complained
last month. She had been gang-raped and an MMS of the crime was in circulation.
"The space for corruption for the police is immense. Parents are pressured by the rapists' family to settle. The police also make them feel nothing will come out of it," said Jagmati Sangwan, director, women's studies, MDU University, Rohtak. Investigators don't do a good job of collecting and preserving the evidence, she added.
The result: more people are let off the hook today by the courts than a decade or two earlier. For instance, 41% cases ended up in a conviction in 1990. Within 10 years, this dropped to around 30% by 2000. Last year, for every 1 person sentenced to jail, 3 walked away scot-free.
Court verdicts, too, don't come quick. According to the NCRB, out of 1.27 lakh rape accused facing trial in courts in 2011, the courts pronounced a verdict in case of 21,489 suspects. At this rate, what hope for justice and the clearing of backlog cases?
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