On the night of December 16, 2012, when a young woman was brutally gang raped by six men in a bus in and left to die, the moment was described as one that would change Delhi’s attitude towards women’s safety. But, four years later, the situation has only worsened. Data shows that rape continues to top the city’s heinous crime figures, with at least one case registered every four hours.
Incidents of rape in Delhi have steadily increased since the incident, rising from 706 in 2012 to 2199 in 2016. Police attribute this to more women coming forward to lodge complaints after the 2012 incident. But, at the same time, the conviction rate for rape has dropped dramatically. In 2012, the police had secured a 49.25% conviction in rape cases, which fell to 35.69% in 2013 and 34.5% in 2014. Last year, the conviction rate was a mere 29.37%. Not only in percentage terms, there has been a drop even in absolute numbers over the last two years – from 747 out of 2166 cases in 2014 to 645 out of 2199 in 2015.
All this, in spite of a series of reforms put in place since 2012, and six fast-track courts set up to handle rape cases. Massive protests at India Gate and across the country in 2012 sparked off gender sensitisation classes for 40,792 Delhi cops till date and launched Operation Nirbheek, in which police visited girls from more than 5000 schools to speak to them about safety. Over 1.83 lakh girls were also trained in self defence. But stories of sexual assault and rape continue to haunt Delhi. This December 13, a 15-year-old girl was gang raped by four men in south east Delhi’s Jamia Nagar. The four men had also videotaped the act and blackmailed the teenager. In September, a 3-year-old was brutally raped by her uncle and burnt with cigarettes at their house in Govindpuri.
Senior police officers say most rapes cannot be prevented because they happen in confined environments by those known to the victims. Out of the 2199 rape cases last year, 295 cases were those of incest, friends and family friends were involved in 816 cases and neighbours in 345 cases.
“Figures make us look bad but rape is not a law-and-order problem in Delhi. It is a social problem,” said a senior officer, who asked not to be named.“It is not possible to go inside every house. These days, we register every case, even when we suspect the allegations do not add up. Let the courts deal with it.”
But, at the same time, the lack of proper deterrents is ensuring that Delhi continues to fight a losing battle against rape.
Rishikant, who runs the NGO Shakti Vahini, says one needs to compare the investigation of December 16 gang rape case against the other cases reported everyday. “If police can investigate every case like they did in the 2012 gang rape, things will improve. It was one of the best investigations in rape cases. The magistrate went to hospital to record the young woman’s statement. Police collected scientific evidence. Even the DNA test of the teeth marks was conducted and used as evidence,” he says.
“If only we have such meticulous investigation in every case, conviction figures will increase, there will be fear of the law.”