Safety of women and children have always been a concern and a topic of discussion in India. According to a poll by Reuters, India has been ranked the most dangerous country out of the world’s 10 worst countries for women.
Almost every day, we hear cases of sexual violence - including gang rapes and brutal murders- followed by protests and demonstrations, or online petitions, being filed for the safety of women.
But even legal recourse has not stopped eve teasing, sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence against women, as part of their patriarchal bid to display the male superiority. This is, undeniably, one of the prime reasons why violence against women is increasing in India.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report of 2018, crimes against women in India have seen a sharp rise since 2011. The number of cases registered in 2011 was 24,206, which soared to 38,947 in 2016.
After gaining national and global attention, Delhi’s ‘Nirbhaya’ gang rape case of 2013 became a pivotal turning point for India’s feminist movement. Since the event, the Indian government has taken important steps to advance laws and policies regarding violence against women.
Let us take a look at some of them.
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act
In the aftermath of the Nirbhaya Case, the Indian government created a high-level committee led by the former Chief of Justice of India, Justice Verma, called the Verma Committee.
The committee came up with a set of key recommendations to widen the definition of ‘rape’ to include non-penetrative sex, creating new offenses for acts such as acid attacks and sexual harrassment, and increase penalties for those convicted of rape.
On March 21, 2013, India amended the existing rape law to a new tougher anti-rape law — Criminal Law (Amendment) Act. The law, which redefined rape and made punishments more stringent, is aimed at punishing sex crimes — including death for repeat rape offenders.
Stalking became a punishable offence
Unfortunately, stalking is not given enough attention in India, because of the casual attitude of the society and women becoming numb to it. However, following the Nirbhaya Case, stalking was added as an offence under Section 354(d) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
Under this section, stalking is strictly censured, and the provision enables the State to take legal action against the offender.
If you are being stalked, you can report the crime through an online application to the National Commission for Women (NCW). Once the NCW is intimated about it, they will take up the case with the police. You can also dial 1096 or 0111-23219750, if you are being stalked and need immediate assistance.
Jurisdiction does not matter while lodging an FIR
In most of the cases, a person can only register an FIR in the police station of their own jurisdiction or where the crime has been committed.
However, if you are a woman who seeks to file a complaint, you can file a ‘Zero FIR’. It came into effect under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code with an intention to initiate the investigation or an action by the police officials without taking the place of crime into account.
Once the FIR is lodged and filed with the magistrate, the case is redirected to the police station in whose jurisdiction the case belongs.
Every police officer is bound to register the complaint of cognisable offence, irrespective of the jurisdiction. If not under their jurisdiction, they are bound to register the FIR under the number 00 and then forward the FIR to the apt police station.
Online database and tracking
In order to facilitate States/UTs, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had launched an online analytic tool for the police in February 2019 called ‘Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences’. This is aimed at monitoring and tracking time-bound investigation in sexual assault cases, in accordance with Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018.
In 2018, MHA had launched the “National Database on Sexual Offenders” (NDSO) in September 2018 to facilitate investigation and tracking of sexual offenders across the country by law enforcement agencies. It also launched a cyber crime portal for citizens to report obscene content.
Further, Cyber Crime Forensic Labs have been set up in several States, and training of over 3,664 personnel, including 410 public prosecutors and judicial officers in identifying, detecting and resolving cyber-crimes against women and children has been imparted.
Apart from this, the Emergency Response Support System, which provides a single emergency number (112) based on computer-aided dispatch of field resources to the location of distress, has been in operation since 2018-19.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)