India is one of the few civilizations that has worshipped or revered women in forms of dieties or saints since time immemorial. History has its own accounts of women who have not only made their mark in the golden pages on civilization but also have spent their whole lives for the betterment of society, like Rani Laxmi Bai, Bikaji Cama, Sarojini Naidu, Begum Hazrat ali, etc. Especially, in Hinduism, the most followed religion in India, there are plenty of goddesses who are worshipped. However, the safety and security of women in India stands on slippery grounds in the present day condition. The shocking fact that the 4th most common crime in India, according to Wikipedia is Rape. It is a critical as well as a peculiar question to ask why in contemporary Indian society, women have to suffer from various forms of injustices and are subjected to heart wrenching plights of Harassment, rapes, eve teasing and domestic violence. Why the country having 58, 64, 69, 174 females, having 940 females per 1000 males, comprising of 14% female law makers in the present 17th Lok Sabha, still women are facing the plights of these inhuman occurrences.

The recent untoward incident in UP, where a 19 year old woman was raped and killed has shook the entire nation’s conscience and has brought out a pitiable image of females in India is not a new occurrence. The daughters of India have, since decades been victims of one or the other forms of crimes against women. The NCRB records show that the state of Maharashtra has highest number of crimes against women after Uttar Pradesh. The Nirbhaya case of 2012 where a 23 year old physiotherapy student was raped, assaulted with rods and left to die had brought out a revolution among the Indian citizenry and had led to amendments and formulations in various laws. A series of protests had erupted in various parts of the country and the pain and anger in the people was visible on the face of various steps taken by the government to curb the protests. However, it did not end there. From 2012 to 2020,India has recorded more than 85-90 rape cases daily. Still, many of these cases go unreported due to social stigma, fear of alienation in the society, fear of red tapism and long procedures of courts, lack of attention and fear of freedom curtailment by the family members and reluctancy of local authorities in taking the cases seriously.

From the infamous 2012 Nirbhaya Rape case to the lamentable 2020 Hathras rape case, How far have we come?

The 2012 Nirbhaya case led to breakout of a series of protests and demonstrations in almost all parts of the country. The name “Nirbhaya” meaning fearless was given to the victim as publication of the rape victim’s name is a punishable offense under Section 228 A of IPC. Her struggle and death became a symbol to women rights movements throughout the world. This lamentable incident led to a series of changes in the System, the most prominent being the formation of Justice Verma committee to incorporate suitable changes in the domain of women security. Many suggestions were submitted including the trial of juveniles accused in rape cases as adults. The then president Pranab Mukherjee also promulgated an ordinance in 2013 which provided for death penalty of rapists, something for which the kin of Nirbhaya had to fight a huge legal battle. The tinted glasses and films on the windows of motor vehicles was also made an offence under Motor Vehicle act. After three months of the incident, Criminal Amendment Bill 2013 was passed which also increased the age of consent to 18 years. Also, formation of Rs.2000 crore Nirbhaya fund took place which provided for measures like setting up CCTV’s, helplines, fast track courts and mobile apps. However, the success of these measures is still not very impressive. Majority of the funds still remain unutilized, fast track courts have huge backlogs, Kerala courts still have cases as old as 10-12 years, marital rape is still not an offense and everyday’s newspaper still bears the melancholic news of another daughter of India becoming a victim to crimes and our failure to save women.

Is there a perfect punishment for the guilty?

On one fateful night of November 2019,the South Indian State of Hyderabad witnessed a gruesome rape and murder of a vetenary doctor named Priyanka Reddy. Her charred body was found day after the incident. Four accused were arrested in the matter who, on the pretext of helping her in the dead of the night, smothered her and committed inhuman deed on her. In this case too, fast track court had been set up by the Telengana Government and the accused were taken to the crime scene by the cyberabad police to recreate the scene where they allegedly tried to snatch the weapons of the police force and were killed in an extrajudicial encounter, generating a mixed response among the citizens. The question that underlies this case is how the four accused, who were already under surveillance of a large number of police personnel, could only be controlled by getting shot dead and according to many, if the police has become the ultimate justice-giver, why do we have the judiciary, Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code in the first place?

However, many also argued that justice to the kin of Nirbhaya had still not been done till march 2020 and her mother had to fight in the face of strong opposition by the defense lawyer. Finally, after multiple shuffles from Death row to prison, the accused were finally awarded exemplary death punishment and were hanged on 20th march 2020. According to many, it took 8 long years for Nirbhaya’s family to get justice, something which they had been dreaming of everyday and was their motivation to wake up every morning after what all they had gone through since the death of their daughter. As a law abiding as well as justice seeking society, it is a dilemma for every Indian to choose a proper deterrment to such crimes in the form of punishment and contrast between the two situations where suffering was the same but fate of the accused criminals was poles apart.

Are women safe anywhere?

The Indian Government has taken several steps to empower and protect women in almost every sphere of the society. The Government has laid down the well known Vishaka guidelines in the year 1997 in the wake of a public interest litigation filed by Vishaka and other women groups after the infamous Bhanwari Devi Rape case. These guidelines have laid down the basic set of rules to be followed in workplaces for the protection of women against sexual harassment in the workplace and have also led the employer be responsible for creating a harassment free workplace which is safe and comfortable for women employees. Many other reforms and refinements have arrived not only in the society in forms of complains like "#meetoo" and "Beti Bachao Andolan" but also in legislative rulings like Disha act in Andhra Pradesh which provides for speedy trial in such cases. The biggest question is that in the 21st century, do we really need to tell people about the importance of Beti Bachao ? Shouldn’t it be in the general prudence of an evolved and a modern society?

Is There a Solution?

The improvement in the laws protecting women in India has been significant in the past few decades but the actual situation differs a lot from the normative situation. On an average, 88 rapes take place every day in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2019. However, the conviction rate is as low as 27.8%. This means, out of 100 accused, only 28 gets convicted. The country which has progressed substantially in terms of medical science and defense sector and is one of the largest democracy in the world is still not able to completely remove the fear of wrongful acts from the minds of women. The biggest evidence is in our society itself where a female does not feel safe to travel in public transport or after sunset and we hear cases almost everyday about eminent personalities involved in such immoral and illegal acts. The present society calls for a complete sanitization of the minds of the stakeholders to recognize females as equal parts of the society, judiciary to impose proper punishment and ensure justice to the victims, Government to enact laws so that the women feel empowered and us members of the society to teach the upcoming generations that such crimes are far from what is expected from rational human beings. Also, at the end, I also hope that we, as a society and a republic never come to such situation where we have to discuss these painful incidents and relive the shameful past incidents of injustice and there is complete absence of these matters of grave concern.


The Author is a law student residing in Delhi-NCR and can be contacted at Views are completely personal and do not intend to defame or create hatred against any Individual, caste, religion or social group.