2020 marked the end of a decade. We review various indicators through this decade in a series of stories. Data from the NCRB indicates that the crime rate increased during this 10-year period both in the case of crimes against women and crimes against SCs.
The year 2020 is the last year of the previous decade. At this important juncture, we take a look at the trend in various indicators during this decade.
The year 2020 was full of uncertainties. Amidst the unprecedented pandemic situation, India also witnessed tensions at the borders, natural disasters like cyclones and torrential rains, and locust attacks. One of the possible implications of an economic upheaval could be an increase in crimes as a result of unemployment. The data pertaining to the crime scene in India in 2020 is yet to be released. The National Crime Records Bureau releases the annual report on ‘Crimes in India’ that provides data on all the registered crimes in a calendar year. For instance, the data for the year 2019 was released in September 2020. But, the reports for 2017 and 2018 were released back to back after a delay of 1-2 years in the latter half of 2019. In this story, we take a look at the trend in the rate of crimes against women as well the atrocities committed against Scheduled Castes (SCs) in the previous decade i.e., 2010 to 2019.
Crime rate gives a clearer picture of the Crime situation
Instead of the actual number of crimes which usually is dependent on population & other factors, Crime rates reveal a more accurate picture since the rate is normalized for population differences.
It should be noted that the crime rate for 2011 was calculated in the NCRB’s report using the provisional population census of 2011 whereas the crime rates for 2012 have been calculated on the basis of projected mid-year population for 2012 based on the 2001 Census data. The projected population for some states is less than the provisional population of 2011 Census data. Similar projections for respective years have been used in the subsequent reports up to 2017. Projections based on the 2011 census have been used in the 2018 and 2019 reports. With respect to crimes against SCs, provisional census data of 2011 has been used in 2012 also. The actual population as per the 2011 census has been used since then.
At the same time, the crime rate in the case of crimes against women & SCs was calculated based on the total population till 2011. However, from 2012, the rate was calculated based on the population of the respective group (one lakh women, one lakh SCs, etc). Hence in all these categories, there is a sudden increase in the crime rate in 2012.
Rate of registered rape cases increased post Nirbhaya incident and come down since 2016
The year 2020 began with the issuance of a death warrant for the four convicts in the gruesome 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape incident. Following repeated petitions filed by the convicts to delay their execution, the four were finally hanged in Tihar in the early hours of 20 March 2020, more than seven years after the incident. The incident resulted in a huge public outcry demanding safety for women. The incident also pushed the government to make changes to the existing laws that prescribe increased punishment for the offenders.
Post this incident, there was a substantial increase in the number of registered rape cases. In 2013, the year following this incident, the number of registered rape cases went up by over 30%.
The rate of registered rapes is calculated per lakh population and is observed to have increased from 4.26 in 2012 to almost 5.7 in 2013. That is, in 2012, four to five women out of every one lakh person reported a case of rape. This increased to almost six women per lakh population in 2013 following the Nirbhaya incident. It is also observed that the crime rate in the case of rape reached a high of 6.3 in 2016 and has come down since then.
The incident paved the way for the Nirbhaya fund to be launched by the government in 2013 to bolster women’s safety in the country. Further, the Juvenile delinquency law was amended in 2015 to allow the trial of children aged 16 to 18 years as adults for heinous crimes such as rape and murder.
Conviction rate in cases of rape is between 26-27%
In an earlier story by Factly, it was observed that the conviction rate in cases of rape (calculated as a percentage of cases which resulted in conviction among those cases whose trials were completed in that year) was always between 26 to 27% in the last two decades except in 2017 when it crossed 30%.
Globally, crimes against women were less reported during lockdowns and domestic violence cases increased
In the first half of 2020, most countries globally went into national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus infection. According to an assessment by the UN across 34 countries to study the impact of COVID-19 on gender-based domestic violence against women and girls, it was noted that reporting of cases of sexual assault and rape had reduced. Once lockdown measures were relaxed, the violence level went back to the previous levels. It was also noted that more women took to helplines to report incidents. Cases of domestic violence had also increased globally.
In India, cases of domestic violence get reported under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Under this section, the husband or any of his family members could be imprisoned and penalised if they are found guilty of harassing the wife. Such cases constituted nearly 27% of the cases of violence against women in 2018 and almost 31% in 2019.
Crimes against women was the highest in 2019
The total number of cases of crimes against women crossed 4 lakh cases in 2019. As compared to 2010, the number has gone up by nearly 53%. The rate of crimes against women per lakh population touched an all-time high of 62.4 in 2019. The crime rate has been increasing over the years and crossed 60 for the first time in 2019.
Under-reporting is an issue in crimes against women
While looking at the figures pertaining to crimes against women, it should be kept in mind that only those crimes which get reported are considered in the compiled data. Women can be hesitant to come forward and register a compliant because of social reasons. Under-reporting of crimes across states is evident in comparing the NCRB numbers with that of NFHS findings. (A detailed story by Factly on the findings from the NFHS-5 survey was published earlier.)
High pendency and low conviction continue in Crimes against women
Data from the NCRB report further indicates that the pendency rate in the cases of crimes against women was more than 90% and hardly 10% of the cases that come for trial get disposed of each year. The conviction rate is also low, about 25% among disposed cases.
Hathras incident raised the issue of caste violence
In September 2020, the alleged rape and murder of a young woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh raised the issue of caste-based violence and discrimination alongside women’s safety. The victim belonged to a Scheduled Caste and allegations were made that the victim’s caste influenced the actions of police and public authorities. The alleged perpetrators belonged to an influential caste. Similar instances were also reported from other states. The majority of the cases of crimes against SCs recorded in 2019 were targeted against women belonging to the SCs.
Crime rate against SCs has risen
Crimes against members of the Scheduled Castes are recorded under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 when the alleged perpetrator is not an SC. The crime rate for atrocities against SCs was the highest in 2014 when 23 persons out of one lakh population of SCs reported atrocities against them. This reached a low of 20.3 in 2016 only to steadily increase to 22.8 in 2019.
Many challenges for vulnerable communities in reporting cases
As already seen earlier in Factly’s story, there are many hindrances to reporting a crime by SCs. Victims are discouraged to report through threatening, to avoid filing complaints against perpetrators from influential castes. Under-reporting is also evident. Further, the pendency rate of cases of crimes against SCs was also high.
Featured Image: Crime Rate increase