Men without Women
Barring a few exceptions, one can draw a direct link between the incidence of Crimes against Women and their asymmetric representation in the police force across states by correlating the data sets provided by the National Crime Records Bureau and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
It took the brutal rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi on December 16, 2012 to bring to public attention the unprecedented scale of violence against women in India, but behind the alarming statistics that often gets overlooked, lies a graver problem. The number of women in the police force is abysmally low, which in turn leaves the duty of enforcing law and order, especially on matters relating to crimes against women, in the hands of low ranking male officers who usually take an apathetic view when the complaint is registered.
According to the data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the total number of women police personnel stand at 114338 as of 2013. What is noteworthy is that the system is tilted towards a male dominion when it comes to leadership roles within the cadre. Out of the aggregate, there are only 10 women Director Generals of Police.
Correlating the data on Crimes Against Women (CAW), released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the number of women in the police force on a rank wise basis, one can draw conclusions apropos certain types of crimes, but the same is not true across states, which may be due to cultural differences, greater transparency in meting out justice, and so on.
Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 38467 cases reported, followed by West Bengal and Rajasthan with 38299 and 31178 respectively. It can be argued that these are among the three most populous states in the country and hence cannot be singled out since on an average the rates would even out throughout the country. However, this would be painting an inaccurate picture.
Despite having large populations, U.P, Rajasthan and M.P have a total of 7404, 6568, and 3102 women cops respectively, which is cumulatively less than Tamil Nadu which has 18882 female staffers on its rolls. The difference in the number of CAW is also telling. 6320 cases were reported in Tamil Nadu as opposed to the leading trio which is responsible for a third of the total CAW which stands at 337992.
For a uniform yardstick to measure the performance of different states on the list, the crime rate, which is the total number of reported crimes per one lakh of the population, is a better indicator. The nationwide crime rate under CAW was reported as 56.3 in 2014. Delhi UT has reported the highest crime rate (169.1) compared to 56.3 at all India level during the year 2014, followed by Assam (123.4), Rajasthan (91.4), Tripura (88.0), West Bengal (85.4), Madhya Pradesh (79.0) and Telangana (78.3).
If one were to break down the various heads which comes under the umbrella term CAW as defined in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the statistics vary depending on the offence, prevailing political climate in the state and the cultural role of women in society.
When it comes to rape, Mizoram reported the highest crime rate of 23.7 followed by UT of Delhi with 23.3 as compared to the national average of 6.1. The case of Mizoram is in fact regressing from the relationship between CAW and women in uniform since the state scores exceptionally high in the latter parameter with 568 out of the total sanctioned strength of 770 being members of the fairer sex.
This anomaly extends to much of the states that constitute the Seven Sisters, a term given to the states constituting the north-eastern part of India, and can be attributed in part to the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The Act has been allegedly misused by the army over the years, which has overstepped its mandate of curbing insurgency in these states and has arbitrarily detained, molested and committed atrocities against many civilians.
A total of 57,311 cases were reported under kidnapping & abduction of women during 2014. These cases have shown an increase of 10.5% during 2014 over the previous year 2013 (from 51,881 cases in 2013 to 57,311 cases in 2014). Uttar Pradesh with 10,628 cases of kidnapping & abduction has accounted for 18.5% of the total such cases during 2014, a pointer to the endemic deficit of accountability apropos the law and order machinery in the Hindi heartland.
The slightly inflated figure projected in the report includes cases of kidnapping registered by the parents of the ‘victim’ even if she has willfully agreed to elope for the purpose of marriage. The hard drawn caste lines in much of North and Central India make inter-caste marriage taboo, and this in turn has also contributed in the rising incidence of ‘honour killings’, which appear under a different head in terms of CAW.
Importation of women from foreign countries has seen a decline of 58 percent and the only states with instances of the same are Bihar and West Bengal with 5 and 4 cases respectively. However, it would be premature to adopt a self-congratulatory tone since much of the data regarding illegal human trafficking across borders go unreported and are taken notice of only when the victims manage to break free from the shackles of the agents who moonlight as procurers.
Although the data from NGOs and researchers is fluctuating, UNICEF reports that as many as 7000 girls and women are trafficked out of Nepal to India each year, and about 200000 are now working in Indian brothels. Such a large-scale exodus forced or otherwise, from over the icy peaks of the Himalayas and across the marshy plains of the Terai, is practically impossible without the collusion of the Indian authorities. Also the eastern states of Bihar, West Bengal and Assam fare badly in terms of women police personnel.
The cases of dowry deaths have increased by 4.6% during the year 2014 over the previous year (8,033 cases). 29.2% of the total cases of dowry deaths were reported in Uttar Pradesh (2,469 cases) alone followed by Bihar (1,373 cases). The highest crime rate with respect to dowry deaths was reported in Bihar (2.8) followed by Uttar Pradesh (2.5) as compared to the national average of 1.4.
Dowry, as a hackneyed social evil has been abandoned in many parts of the world but continues to thrive in many parts of India, especially rural areas which have been left out of the arc of social and economic reforms. The fact that a large number of women have been implicated under the ‘Cruelty by husband or his relatives’ clause reveals how women themselves are propagating this outmoded practice, and by doing so demeaning the self-worth of another generation of young women, often forcing them to take the extreme step of suicide.
In the crimes that come under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Kerala, in spite of boasting high levels of literacy and a positive sex ratio, fares worst with 140 cases registered followed by Bihar (112 cases), Uttar Pradesh (66 cases), Madhya Pradesh (53 cases) and Rajasthan (17 cases). These four States together accounted for 91.1% of total such cases reported in the country during 2014.
The large number of domestic violence cases in Kerala comes in the backdrop of a traditionally matriarchal society where women have been accorded a place of importance. The relatively high figure for Kerala is therefore a truer estimate of the ground reality unlike in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh where such incidents go unreported unless under extreme circumstances, since it is widely accepted that marriage implies insubordination to the husband and his wishes, however malevolent they may be.
India, which is home to people of diverse persuasions, continues to grapple with the question of how to incorporate personal laws within the ambit of codified civil laws which proclaim the nation to be a secular state. Conventional forms of religion have a proclivity to tilt towards patriarchy and this is evident in the continued practice of triple talaq, a custom by which a Muslim man can unilaterally divorce his wife by thrice proclaiming the word talaq.
Domestic violence is usually condoned under such circumstances and goes unreported since most women do not dare to risk a divorce which is based on terms that are not amenable to them. The stigmatization and social fallout, compounded by a paltry alimony often restrain women from taking legal recourse to the abuse that transpires inside the four walls of their houses.
However, the statistics do not necessarily overlook the ineptitude of the police in bringing closure to cases that are duly registered at the time. Out of 315722 cases disposed of by police, charge-sheets were submitted in 252682 cases showing charge-sheeting rate of 91.0.
More than 90.0% of charge-sheets were in cases in abetment of suicides of women (92.5) and cases under the Immoral Traffic (P) Act (98.4). A total of 144938 cases remained pending for investigation at the end of the year 2014, showing pendency rate of 31.4.
Analyzing the data on the state wise distribution of women serving in the police with that on Crimes against Women for 2014 reveals that barring a few exceptions, participation of women in the maintenance of law and order is a constructive move that will make redressal of justice more accessible to a wide section of the population.
The data also shows that in general, greater proportion of women in uniform brings about an increase in the number of reported CAW, which can be ascribed to a sense of confidence in the system that greater female representation would cause.
The idea of having reservation for women in Parliament was mooted in 1996 and the Women’s Reservation Bill continues to hang fire in the Lok Sabha 20 years hence. In light of the data collated regarding the safety of women, it becomes evident that more stringent policing norms and greater representation of women is the need of the hour.
To be a truly representative democracy, the benches of Parliament might require women legislators but what is a matter of greater exigency for the nation is more number of women in khaki patrolling the streets to neutralize the prowling breed of sexual terrorists.