Mumbai’s streets were relatively unsafe for women in 2016 as compared to the previous year, according to statistics from 93 police stations. While a noticeable spike was reported in the number of molestation and kidnapping cases, there was a marginal decrease in rape cases till a month before the year ended.
According to the figures collated till November 30, 2016, the total number of FIRs registered under Section 354 and 509 (molestation and outraging modesty of women) of IPC were 2,393. Of these, FIRs for molestations stood at 2,002, while 391 offences were registered for outraging the modesty of women.
During the corresponding period in 2015, the number of molestation and outraging modesty cases stood at 1,852 and 381 respectively (total 2,233 cases).
A total of 637 rape cases (409 minor, 228 major) were reported during the period in 2016 as against 655 (407 minor, 248 major) in the corresponding period in 2015. Similarly, 1,069 cases of kidnapping cases (1,049 minor, 20 major) were reported till November 2016 as compared to 867 cases (848 minor, 19 major) reported in the same time in 2015.
In fact, an analysis of the molestation cases reported last year drives home the vulnerability of women, across all classes and strata of cosmopolitan Mumbai, to violence .
While a resident doctor at Nanavati hospital in Juhu was arrested for sexually assaulting a 28-year-old patient in the ICU for over six months, the molestation of a foreign national by a Uber cab driver at Bandra in August was a crude reminder of the horrific rape by a cab driver in New Delhi in December 2014.
Like always, the bad boys of Bollywood too had their share in the rising graph of violence against women. In July, a 27-year-old woman lodged a case of molestation and assault against singer Mika Singh with the Versova police. She alleged that Mika exploited her for two years, promising her a break in a film. He failed to keep his promise, and when she confronted him, the latter assaulted her and threw her out of his house.
Noted women’s right’s activist and co-founder of “Akshara”, Nandita Shah, said the increase in the number of cases showcased an increase in the awareness and determination of women to fight rather than shedding tears in silence. “It’s not that the city’s roads have become unsafe, rather more women have started to speak up against violence,” she said.
There is meat in what Shah said. In August, television actress Pratibha Tiwari (of Naiya from ‘Saath Nibhana Saathiya fame) dragged a drunk man, who tried to misbehave with her when she was waiting for someone at the western express highway at Kandivli, to the local police station and even registered an FIR. Such an instance of courage (by women) to fight back was unthinkable some years back.
However, noted lawyer and women’s right’s activist Abha Singh said the marginal increase in the instances of sexual offences against women would mean a large number of women are still averse to reporting crimes at police stations. “A simple increase in numbers means crime has increased many fold and very less are coming forward,” she said, adding that police stations still lack the favourable atmosphere for women to come forward and register offences.
The arrest of a 31-year serial molester by the Worli police had in fact highlighted the inhibition of victims to speak up. Before his arrest in July for sexually assaulting a 27-year-old woman, the sex predator, who worked as a chauffeur, had molested scores of teens and small children under the pretext of asking address. The previous cases never made it to police stations.
Countering the claims, joint commissioner of police, law and order, Deven Bharati said the spike in the figures was on account of the resolve of the police in registering offences against every single complaint. “In fact, the trend (of increase in the number of cases) has been observed since 2015. This is because more women are coming forward and we have been sensitive towards the issue. Strict instructions have been given to register offences even for verbal complaints,” Bharati said, adding that broken and underage relationships often end up as rapes in police register, contributing to the overall spike in the statistics.