There is a spurt in crimes against women in Agra district. Shockingly, at least in some cases, law enforcement officials have remained indifferent while the victims' community and family members have either turned their backs on the suffering women or harassed them further.
Recently, a 25-year-old woman who works in a garment factory in New Delhi startled a court in Agra when she accused her relatives of gang rape. The woman said she fled Delhi after her own family refused to fight for justice out of fear of being ostracised by the community.
In another case, a married village woman alleged that a man raped her when she went to the fields to answer nature's call. The woman said when she complained to the village elders and police, the only response she got was an impregnable wall of apathy.
Respect for women is clearly going down in this region.
Recently, an employee of a nursing home tried to rape a patient but timely assistance saved her. But Preeti (name changed) of Agra city's Jagdishpura area was not so lucky. She was first gang raped and later the rapists audaciously demanded Rs. 50,000 from her parents to keep quiet about the incident.
Medical activists say young girls in the rural areas are no longer safe.
"I have to daily handle cases of forced physical assaults or abortions. Parents are in no position to protect their girls from youths being fed on spurious culture and easily accessible pornographic material," a gynaecologist who also works as a social worker said on condition of anonymity.
Activists say that instead of taking action against criminals and ensuring that women feel safe, law enforcement officials often harass youths who flee their homes to escape the shackles of an oppressive system or to get married.
Last week, a young couple from Agra was caught in Etah, also in Uttar Pradesh.
The news made headlines in the local media. The two had run away from Agra after family members put obstacles in the path of their "true love".
"Falling in love is still seen as a crime," moaned Netra Pal Singh, a social activist and family counsellor of the Women's Conference. "Surely this mindset needs to change as more and more youngsters are taking up jobs and becoming mobile."
A senior police officer says that some crimes, especially those involving women, cannot be prevented by police action alone.
"With increasing levels of promiscuity and people becoming insulated to permissiveness, there was no way such crimes can be controlled without society's backing," he said. Some blame the TV, others the Internet.