Stuck in a maze of caste, cops and laws, women's security in Uttar Pradesh has been a farce under successive state govts

National Crime Record Bureau’s Crime in India 2019 report stated that crimes against women rose by 7.3 percent as compared to 2018. The state also had the highest number of crimes against girl children, the most dowry cases and the second highest number of rapes against Dalit women.

Srishti Kapoor October 01, 2020 13:36:38 IST
Stuck in a maze of caste, cops and laws, women's security in Uttar Pradesh has been a farce under successive state govts

Activists stage protests against following the death of the Hathras gangrape victim in Delhi. AP

Even as the country seethes in anger over the death of the Hathras gangrape victim, reports surfaced about the death of another victim in Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur. The Dalit woman was allegedly drugged, gangraped and her body was mutilated. An eight-year-old was raped in Azamgarh while a 14-year-old girl was raped by her neighbour in Bulandshahr. Among the spate of chilling crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh over the last month are the cases involving a 13-year-old girl in Lakhimpur Kheri and a 70-year-old woman in Ballia.

While Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered the formation of a three-member SIT to probe the Hathras case and directed for a trial in a fast-track court, the incident comes only a few weeks after the chief minister launched Mission Durachari, which orders officials to name and shame harassers by putting up their posters in public. Operation Shakti was also conducted in Unnao, Hardoi, Sitapur, Lakhimpur, Rae Bareli and Lucknow Rural, which led to initiation of action against 2,200 people in a month.

The rise in crimes against women is also reflected in the National Crime Record Bureau’s Crime in India 2019 report, according to which the figure rose by 7.3 percent as compared to 2018, with the highest numbers (14.7 percent of total cases) reported from Uttar Pradesh. The state also had the highest number of crimes against girl children under the POCSO Act, the most dowry cases and the second-highest number of rapes against Dalit women.

The dismal state of women’s safety, however, was prevalent even in 2012, when Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party defeated the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party and came to power. As per a report that states NCRB figures, the number of rape cases registered daily were 68 in 2012, which increased to 92 in 2013, 100 in 2014 and 106 in 2016.

By 2014, as many as 38,467 crimes against women were registered in UP, which amounts to one every 15 minutes, IndiaSpend reported. Cases of crime against women increased by 61 percent between 2010-11 and 2014-15, with a 43 percent increase in rape cases and 21 percent increase in cases of kidnapping and abduction of girls in 2013-14 compared to the previous year, a Comptroller Auditor General report tabled in the state Assembly stated. 59 percent of the rape survivors were minors, the report further said.

It added that the Uttar Pradesh police was short of manpower (55 percent), with only 4.6 percent of the total force comprising women, a figure in stark contrast to the 2009 Home Ministry recommendation of 33 percent.

On 23 August, 2016, Yadav had informed the Assembly that 1,012 rape cases and 4,520 cases of harassment of women were reported in Uttar Pradesh between 15 March and 18 August. The information was revealed less than a month after a woman and her minor daughter were gang-raped on the Bulandshahr highway.

In 2017, Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of crimes against women, with 56,011 cases. The state constituted 15.6 percent of all crimes against women in India. Of the 3.4 lakh crimes against women reported in the country, 56,000 came from Uttar Pradesh. This is 6,749 cases more than the number reported in 2016, and 20,103 more than those reported in 2015. Lucknow and Kanpur came second only to Patna in reporting dowry deaths.

The state capital was second to Delhi in the number of assaults with intent to outrage modesty of women. Of the four metros that reported the most cases for kidnapping and abduction with intent to force for marriage, three (Kanpur, Ghaziabad and Lucknow) were in Uttar Pradesh.

Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2018 pegged Uttar Pradesh as the most unsafe for women, registering 59,445 cases of crime against women. Lucknow registered the highest number of cases of harassment of women in public transport, compared to other cities.

Stuck in a maze of caste cops and laws womens security in Uttar Pradesh has been a farce under successive state govts

In June this year, a woman travelling from Pratapgarh to Noida with her two children was raped in a moving bus. As the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus began, data compiled by the National Commission for Women showed a 121 percent rise in online complaints of domestic violence, the most coming from Uttar Pradesh.

Such has been the travesty of justice in Uttar Pradesh that women raped during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots awaited justice awaited justice till years later, with only seven of the victims being able to muster the courage to file the FIR, but facing legal and bureaucratic delays and intimidation. “They threatened me, said we will hurt your son. I was scared and I changed my statement and said nothing happened. I did not inform anyone but when others found out they encouraged me to stick to the truth,” one of the seven survivors told Al Jazeera in 2016.

Muzaffarnagar riots were the first instance in which the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013 introduced Section 376(2)(g) to the Indian Penal Code, which deals with the offence of rape committed during communal or sectarian violence was adopted. When the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the survivors would be given compensation, security and other support, the state had on it the onus to set a precedent regarding the implementation of this amendment. It failed as the FIR did not mention the amendment to charge the accused. Moreover, the intimidation continued, not just at the hands of the accused, but also an investigation officer in the case who was dismissed from duty in 2014.

While the hurried, overnight cremation of the Hathras victim lays bare the caste divide that comes into play in dealing with crimes against women, several cases have also seen the involvement of political and public figures, making delivery of justice an uphill task. Former union minister Chinmayanand was accused of raping a Saharanpur law student, with the latter being charged with extortion later. In February this year, he walked out of the Shahjahanpur district jail after being granted bail by the Allahabad High Court.

An FIR was lodged against suspended BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar only in 2018, after the woman he had raped in 2017 attempted suicide near the chief minister’s residence. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2019. The survivor’s father and aunts died under questionable circumstances while the investigation in the case was on.

Yogi Adityanath, who assumed his chief ministership with the promise of making the state safer for women and was credited with bringing in anti-Romeo squads, has taken various steps in an attempt to add credibility to his commitment to women’s security and welfare. Full page advertisements were taken out in newspapers in 2018 listing 26 "state government policies and programmes for the welfare of women" in force.

Even though the anti-Romeo squads registered six cases daily on an average and implicated 3,003 people over a nine-month period, news reports claimed they vanished in some parts of Uttar Pradesh within a month after the launch of the programme. Activists, however, said the squads should be disbanded because their heavy-handed tactics and moral policing left people insecure and fearful.

A Women and Child Safety Organisation has also been set up to ensure speedy disposal of criminal cases against women and children besides taking care of their safety. The special unit will look after all existing helplines and organisations dealing with control of crime against women and children, a report published in August said. This will include regular monitoring of anti-Romeo squads and that of the women helpline and facilities such as 1090 women powerline, Mahila Samman Prakosht and Mahila Suraksha Prakosht will be merged for better monitoring.

However, the existing women helpline 181 has met a sad fate, with its employees claiming non-payment of salaries since July 2019. The helpline service was temporarily discontinued in June this year. Letter to authorities went unanswered, claimed a report in The Print.

Moreover, questions on the gender representation in the Uttar Pradesh Police were raised after The India Justice Report by Tata Trusts released in November 2019 said it will take the state 63 years to reach the 33 percent representation of women in the force.

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