30% rise in sexual abuse of young women in shelter homes: NCRB annual report
Uttar Pradesh ranks highest in terms of women facing harassment in public transport.
The number of incidents of sexual harassment in shelter homes increased by 30% in 2018 (over 2017), a year when reports of the sexual abuse of tens of young women in a Muzaffarpur (Bihar) shelter home shocked the country. That case is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and has been shifted to a Delhi trial court by the Supreme Court.
According to the latest government statistics, the National Crimes Record Bureau’s (NCRB) just-released annual “Crime in India-2018” report, as many as 707 incidents of sexual harassment were reported in 2018 in shelter homes in India – a rise of almost 30% over the 544 such instances reported the previous year.
On Wednesday, CBI informed the Supreme Court that charges have been filed in at least 13 out of the 17 cases it is probing pertaining to abuse in shelter homes in Bihar (including the Muzzafarpur case). According to latest report, maximum cases of abuse in shelter homes – 288 – have been reported from Uttar Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra (161), Andhra Pradesh (62), Madhya Pradesh (61) and Haryana (49).
Interestingly, not a single incident of abuse in shelter homes from Bihar in 2018 makes it to NCRB report, despite the 17 cases being probed by CBI. An NCRB official, who did not wish to be named, said several states either usually don’t share information or delay it due to which relevant data remains missing from NCRB’s annual reports.
Data in the category of sexual harassment in shelter homes for women and children appeared for the first time in NCRB’s annual report for 2017, which was released in October 2019.
While transferring the Bihar shelter home probes to Delhi in February last year, the Supreme Court slammed the state government for its management of shelter homes. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) blew the lid off the scandal with its audit of shelter homes in the state last year. Following the reports of atrocities at the Sewa Sankalp NGO run by Brajesh Thakur, the ministry of women and child development ordered a social audit of all the shelter homes across states by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
Advocate Fauzia Shakil, appearing in the SC for petitioner Nivedita Jha in shelter home sexual abuse cases, said: “The extent of the exploitation and the gravity of the heinous offences committed against the hapless inmates has demonstrated the perverted criminal roles of officers (state government officials) entrusted with the safety of these girls. The CBI investigation in the 16 other shelter homes and the charge sheets filed by them subsequently shows that the discovery of the crimes in the Muzaffarpur horror house was only the tip of the iceberg. If anything, it confirms that the problem is an epidemic.”
She added that “the lessons learnt from Bihar should not be ignored”.
Women harassed in Public transport/acid attacks still rampant
The Crime in India 2018 report also reveals that there were 730 reports of incidents of sexual harassment of women in the public transport system and 401 reports of such incidents at the workplace in 2018. These numbers were 599 and 479 respectively in 2017. Uttar Pradesh saw the most reports of women being harassed in public transport with 299 cases followed by Maharashtra (159), Karnataka (64) and Madhya Pradesh (60).
There were 126 acid attacks on 131 women in 2018 while there were 26 unsuccessful attempts to injure/kill women by throwing acid on them. Acid attacks are defined under section 326A of Indian Penal Code, under which the accused can get a jail term of 10 years, which may extend to life. The corresponding numbers were 148 attacks on 148 women, and 35 unsuccessful attempts in 2017.Charge sheets were filed in 90 cases of acid attacks in 2018, while 100 charge sheets were filed the previous year.
Three hundred and seventeen cases of acid attack were pending trial in courts in 2018 in comparison with the 229 in 2017. Thirteen persons arrested in such cases were acquitted in 2018, while 30 were acquitted in 2017.
The NCRB adds that there were 18,552 incidents of sexual assaults on women at what it terms “other places”.
Mukul Varma, director, northern India, Acid Survivors & Women Welfare Foundation India, said, “The government has been trying to address the problem, but while the intent is there, the execution has not met the desired results. The sale of acid over the counter is still there...Till the government’s intention to take strong action in acid attacks is not conveyed via a sustained media campaign, we will not see any change...”