Maharashtra recorded the third highest number of rape cases (4,189) after Madhya Pradesh (4,882) and Uttar Pradesh (4,816).
The recently released NCRB data does not augment good news for women and children. There was an increase of 12.4 per cent in reported cases of rape from 34,651 cases in 2015 to 38,947 in 2016. Maharashtra recorded the third highest number of rape cases (4,189) after Madhya Pradesh (4,882) and Uttar Pradesh (4,816). Delhi reported 33 per cent increase (13,803 cases out of total 41,761 cases) followed by Mumbai at 12.3 per cent (5,128 cases) among the 19 cities with a population of above two million.
Additionally, there were 7,956 cases of kidnapping in Maharashtra, behind only Delhi. Maharashtra is also second only to Delhi in cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, with 4,815 incidents last year.
The statistics are alarming and lead to a conclusion that the stringent provisions have failed to act as a deterrent as they were meant to or alternatively, the police have failed in their duty of protecting women and children. But perhaps there is a need to examine this data from another perspective. The Mumbai Police comment that increase in reporting is not a blemish but a positive sign means cops no longer shun the survivors of sexual crimes when they come to report.
The provision of mandatory reporting has also helped since medical professionals, social workers and NGOs are now mandated to report sexual crimes against children. But even more pertinent is the fact that of late, the police have invited legal NGOs like ‘Majlis’ to conduct focussed skill training. Over the years, Majlis has trained over 6,000 police including women PIs, Crime PIs, senior officers and also constables through carefully crafted trainings. Here there is a conscious shift from the earlier “gender sensitisation” programmes where the impact could not easily be measured to focussed training as per the manadate of a statute.
Based on our experience, we also helped to draft a manual — the standard operating procedures (SOP) and trainings conducted as per this officially approved SOP. Since we were providing socio-legal support to survivors of sexual crimes, we had the opportunity to closely monitor the trained officials and bring aberrations to the notice of the higher officers, which has led to around 30 departmental enquiries.
Recently, the Mumbai police commissioner announced that a team of eight persons, comprising women inspectors and constables will be set up in every police stations and invited Majlis to conduct the trainings which have just been concluded. While crime reporting has improved, our hope is that with this training, conviction rate will also increase. Only then the stringent provision will act as a deterrent.
(The author is a women’s rights lawyer and heads Majlis, a women rights’ organisation)