India isn't a safe country for women and that's a fact that unfortunately many of us have to accept. On one side, female literacy rates have risen. We have seen more women in the workforce in recent times than ever before and women are even being accepted more widely into the armed forces. However, we are still miles away from making it a country where men and women have equal rights and opportunities.
In terrifying news for the country, incidents of sexual harassment in shelter homes have increased by 30% in 2018 (over 2017). The National Crimes Record Bureau’s (NCRB) just-released annual “Crime in India-2018” report. As many as 707 incidents of sexual harassment were reported in 2018 in shelter homes in India – a rise of almost 30% over the 544 such incidents reported the previous year.
2018 was the year that reported sexual abuse of tens of young women in a Muzaffarpur (Bihar) shelter home and the case shocked the country. The case is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and has been shifted to a Delhi trial court by the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, the CBI informed the Supreme Court that charges have been filed in at least 13 of the 17 cases it is currently probing pertaining to sexual abuse in Bihar, which includes the Muzaffarpur case. According to reports, maximum cases of abuse in shelter homes have been reported from Uttar Pradesh. About 288 cases have been reported from UP, 161 from Maharashtra, 62 from Andhra Pradesh, 61 from Madhya Pradesh and 49 from Haryana.
However, not a single incident has been reported from Bihar in 2018 made it to the NCRB report, even though 17 cases are being probed by the CBI. An unnamed official from NCRB said that many states either usually don't share the information or delay it due to which relevant data remains missing from NCRB’s annual reports.
The Crime in India 2018 report also reveals that there were 730 reports of incidents of sexual harassment of women in public transport and 401 reports of such incidents at the workplace in 2018. The numbers were 599 and 479 respectively in 2017.
UP saw the most reports of women being harassed in public transport with 299 cases followed by Maharashtra which saw 159, Karnataka with 64 and Madhya Pradesh with 60. There were even 126 acid attacks on 131 women in 2018 while there were 26 unsuccessful attempts to injure/kill women by throwing acid on them. Charge sheets were filed in 90 cases of acid attacks in 2018 and 100 were filed the year before.
Mukul Varma, Director, Northern India, Acid Survivors & Women Welfare Foundation India said, "The government has been trying to address the problem, but while the intent is there, the execution has not met the desired results. The sale of acid over the counter is still there. Till the government’s intention to take strong action in acid attacks is not conveyed via a sustained media campaign, we will not see any change."
It's such a terrifying and sad reality that so many of us have to deal with that our country and sometimes our own homes aren't a safe place. With stronger legislation and enforcement cases of sexual abuse could reduce drastically and we hope that the government sees this as a priority. Perhaps looking at this, not as single incidents of abuse and acid attack, but addressing the patriarchal problem that plagues our country could help more.
Featured Image: Al Jazeera
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