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5 years of Dec 16 gangrape: Myopic reading of crime records likely to overshadow finer points, positive trends

The increase in numbers might be a result of better reporting and recording of crime by sufferers and police.

delhi Updated: Dec 16, 2017 09:44 IST
Roshan Kishore
Roshan Kishore
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
December 16 gangrape,Dec 16 gang rape,Crimes against women
Activists holds placards as they protest against violence and crimes against women.(AFP file Photo/Getty Images)

It is five years since mass protests shook Delhi after the brutal gang rape of a young woman. Have things changed for better? Are women any safer in the city?

A look at the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics suggests otherwise. The number of rape cases in Delhi stood at 706 in 2012. For 2014, 2015 and 2016 these numbers are above 2000. Cases of assault on women with the intent to outrage modesty were 727 in 2012. For the last three years, these numbers have been above 4000. Does this mean crimes against women have increased in the city? Not necessarily. These numbers might be a result of better reporting and recording of crime by sufferers and police. In many states the police refuse to even record such crimes. Women are often weary of going to the police due to victim blaming and the fact that a large number of perpetrators of such crimes are familiar to the victim. The 2012 movement might have helped in breaking such taboos in Delhi.

Are there other statistics that can help us in assessing the progress Delhi has made on this front?

IDFC Institute conducted a survey on Safety Trends and Reporting of Crime among 20,597 households across Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru in 2015-16. The survey shows that Delhi is the worst in terms of perception of women being unsafe. 87% of respondents in Delhi start worrying about the safety of an unaccompanied woman if she is out of home after 9pm. The numbers are much lower in the other three cities. Mumbai had the highest share of respondents who felt that women are always safe in the city (See Chart 1).\

They worry but do not care enough
Two separate studies show that families start worrying about their female members, who were out unaccompanied, as the sun goes down. Yet, a very low percentage of people consider safety of women an important election issue
When do you start worrying about the safety of a female member who may be outside home unaccompanied?
"Source: Safety Trends and Reporting of Crime, IDFC Institute
Safety of women does not figure high on priority of voters
Source: ADR’s Mid-Term Survey Report - All India (Jan-Apr 2017); brief Analysis of Voters’ Priorities in India: Importance of Issues and Performance of the Government *For these only urban survey responses have been taken for Delhi

Preventing crimes against women is not just a subject of better policing. Social attitudes matter a lot. The #MeToo campaign has highlighted this aspect. Sexual harassment is rampant across the board. Silence, both of the victim and those who witness such acts only emboldens the perpetrators.

Such apathy also exists in India. The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) conducted a survey among 2.71 lakh people across 527 Lok Sabha constituencies. It shows that safety and empowerment of women figures low on priority list of voters in the country. Delhi fares only marginally better than all-India average on this count (See Chart 2). One would have expected that the 2012 movement would have made safety of women a bigger issue.

While one should be careful in jumping to conclusions on the basis of these statistics, there is little doubt that Delhi needs to do more to do justice to the spirit of December 2012 movement.

First Published: Dec 16, 2017 09:03 IST