The country’s “rape capital” is a favourite hunting ground for stalkers as well.
A dozen women on an average complained to police every 24 hours about stalkers, two more stood up to report peeping Toms invading their privacy and nearly 18 others complained about an assault to strip them.
Through 2014, there were 4,700 complaints of stalking, 674 relating to voyeurism and 6,400 assaults to strip women.
Apart from this, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were 22,000 other complaints relating to sexual harassment at workplace, streets, public transport and elsewhere.
This is the first time the NCRB has compiled figures relating to crimes incorporated into the Indian Penal Code just two years ago.
“There had been anecdotal evidence about these crimes...These data help us put a finger on precise numbers,” an NCRB official said.
In absolute numbers, Delhi is next only to Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra with both reporting about 800 cases of stalking. But Delhi’s rate was over seven times the national average, making it the highest in the country when the population of women in the Capital is taken into account.
The crime rate is the number of crimes reported for every one lakh women.
“These figures corroborate the fact that Delhi is the rape capital of the country. But we need to see what happens after a case of stalking is reported to police. In how many cases are FIRs registered and what are the preventive measures taken by police. The DCW is going to work with police and other agencies to ensure measures are taken to address these issues,” said Swati Maliwal, chief of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW).
Why women are so unsafe in our cities
Nearly 40% of all stalking cases in the country took place in Uttar Pradesh (835), Maharashtra (797) and Delhi (541). Andhra Pradesh (504) and Telangana (426) – the state carved out of Andhra in June last year – came next.
The first high-profile case of stalking in India was also reported from Delhi in 1996 after a young Delhi University law student, Priyadarshini Mattoo, was murdered by Santosh Singh, son of a senior police officer. It turned out that Santosh had been stalking her before he killed her.
But it took Parliament another 17 years and the gang rape of December 2012 to recognise stalking as crime and specifically incorporate the offence into the statute.
It helped that the law stipulates punishment for policemen who do not register such complaints.
“The Delhi figures are high because we follow a policy of free registration of cases. Whatever complaint we receive, we register an FIR. The complaint by the victim is penned down verbatim and a case is registered irrespective of the jurisdiction,” special commissioner of police (crime) Taj Hassan said.
He added the number of cases shot up recently as more women came forward to file complaints.
Nationally, most of the suspects were arrested but only about 35-36% of stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment cases ended in a conviction.
Not every complaint was found true, though. Investigators in 2014 reported that 766 cases of sexual harassment and 109 complaints of stalking were false.
A police officer said the number of these reported crimes would increase over the next few years as awareness about the new penal provisions grow.
For Delhi women, danger lurks even at home
Much of it, however, he conceded, would depend on how the police handled the probes. “If the message goes out that the law was effective to punish people and the police sensitive enough, I am sure more people would come forward,” he said.
While Delhi might remain in the limelight, there are other hotspots too.
For instance, Delhi’s crime rate for stalking is followed closely by picturesque Goa, Telangana, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
Maharashtra has the maximum number of voyeurism cases but it is neighbouring Goa – where human resource development minister Smriti Irani detected a hidden camera in a reputed store – that has the highest crime rate for voyeurism in the country.
Similarly, it is Tripura that has the dubious distinction of the highest crime rate (10 per one lakh women) for using force to disrobe its women. Odisha – that has the highest number of cases (1142) – comes second, with a crime rate of 5.5.
At least 2 women sexually assaulted every day in posh Delhi localities