India is the 2nd most populous country in the world with the longest written Constitution in the world. Despite so many laws and various special provisions for women, the number of unreported crimes is enormous. The statistics of crime against women are increasing day by day. The problem is not with the laws but with the deeply rooted social prejudice and attitude of people. Most of the crimes are unreported because of the so-called “society will blame the women” only, and some are unreported because of a lack of awareness of the laws. Although there are instances where women have come forward bravely to fight their battles and have opened the eyes of society and have brought substantial positive impact in society, there are still areas in India where people’s mindset needs to change.
Law can be a useful weapon against heinous crimes against women if the society reflects prejudices and stereotypes. If a crime against a woman is committed, people very quickly start blaming the women as “the one who invited the trouble” rather than supporting the victim, the society accuses women as being at fault. Many unreported crimes result from the stereotypical approach of blaming the victim for inviting the trouble. Reporting the crime is the first and most crucial step of justice. If only crimes are reported, only then people get justice.
Is society majorly responsible?
Around 48% of the total Indian population is constituted by women. Women are worshipped in the form of ‘Devi’ in the country. But the real question is that are women safe in the country where they are worshipped as devi? The answer is a clear-cut no. They are not safe in this country, nor they are represented in the law-making bodies. Another question lies in the access of justice for the women. Justice is not accessible to them because of so many factors, one of them being the society. The statistics of crime against women is horrific. The answers to the questions about the procedural safety, attitude towards women, the vulnerabilities, role of people and law protectors’ towards making India a safer place for women are still vague in many aspects. It needs a clear solution. The crime against women is on increase. It keeps increasing day by day. The statistics of the reported cases are horrendous. A report (1)said that one woman is raped every 15 minutes in India according to the statistics. Over 35000 cases of murder, 20000 cases of rapes, sexual harassment, huge number of cases of domestic abuse, sexual violence etc. are reported. If the reported number of cases is so huge, then what about the cases that are not even reported. A study says that almost 99% of the sexual assault and harassment cases are not even reported. Only 1% is reported, and the number of the 1% is already huge. But the real question is that what is the reason or cause that is causing the increased number of unreported cases. Also, if crimes are reported, what are the possible factors that contribute to such crimes? Reporting a crime is already a struggle for a large number of victims, but the problem does not end here. The problem ends with the final sentence of the judge. Till then, it is a daily struggle and harassment for the victim in the case. Maybe it is one of the reasons why crimes are not reported. First, we will look at the possible causes of the crime against women and then find the causes of unreported crimes. Then we will be talking about the further vulnerabilities in the way of justice.
Women have constantly been struggling against things like gender inequality, misogyny, sexism. Although some sections of society have become aware about such things and their attitude towards women has completely changed. But a large section of society needs improvement. They are still stuck in the old mindsets and norms which completely see women as an object and discriminate on the basis of gender. Another major cause of increasing crimes against women is not only based on what we see in our surroundings, a huge part of it comes from the visual media that we are so deeply indulged in. Sexism and misogyny is so well embedded in the songs and movies that it has a reach of almost every citizen of it. The lyrics of the songs portrays women in such a degrading manner, especially the item songs, has resulted in creating an image of women as an object. Considering women’s, no as yes, following the women, the labels put on women, and setting an ideal body type are the major factors that contribute to crimes like eve teasing, stalking and sometimes in worse cases, acid attacks, sexual harassment, rape, etc. These things are normalized in songs and thus, in people’s mind so well that they knowingly or unknowingly practice that in real life and think of it as a normal thing. The impact media has on one’s mind since childhood is so deep, it becomes the role of the media to understand the intensity of impact of what people see on the screen and what kind of impact it can have on them. Now that we have talked about one factor, coming to another, that is the old patriarchal and stereotypical approach and norms which is another major thing in anybody’s life. What we see, listen or see our family , friends, people surrounding, plays a huge role in what kind of attitude and mindset we have and we pass on the same beliefs to the next generation and the cycle goes on. And this mindset and attitude shapes our society in general. Overall, the major factor is how some norms and attitude put women in a difficult position. Another major problem which causes crimes against women and even crimes in general is the lack of education. A large section of the society is not educated enough to understand the intensity of what is happening around, and commit crimes. And lack of awareness and education is also one of the reasons why crimes are not reported.
Now that we have analyzed the causes of crimes against women, the even more important issue that we need to address and analyze is underreporting of crimes. There are many causes of unreported crimes, one of them as discussed above is lack of awareness and education. Along with not knowing the impact and intensity of the actions, people in general and the victims are not aware of the laws made to protect them and to provide them justice in case they have been wronged and are the victims of a crime. There are stringent laws especially made for crime against women but the problem lies in the awareness and education of people. Another major problem is that there is a fear in the mind of the victim and its family of being insulted and blamed for the wrongdoing of others. They have a fear in mind of being blamed as the one causing trouble. Most of the crimes especially, sexual harassment, sexual violence and rape are not reported by the victim. Here comes the responsibility of society and contribution to this problem. The blame game of the society on the victim stops them to report the crime. Whenever a crime happens, the society rather than blaming the offender, blames the victim as the provocative one, the victims starts getting judged and straightaway gets a label of being characterless and the one asking for it. They are insulted, judged, not believed and this leads to so many unreported crimes. The crimes start often from childhood, and in most cases, the relatives or a known person is the one committing the crime. They are harassed at the age when they don’t even know how to explain it and even if they gather courage and tell anyone in the family or anyone, they are not believed. These things have a huge impact on the mind of the victim and the fear of not believing stays in the mind, so if they are subjected to the same crime or any other crimes, they do not report it. The society is hardcore responsible for the huge number of unreported crimes specially in cases of sexual violence and harassment, the victim is blamed for the suffering she has to go through. ‘She must be the one causing trouble’, ‘she must be asking for it’ , ‘she must be wearing provocative clothes which is like an invitation to the offender’ , these are some of the statements that people very easily pass if they get to know about such offences. These things are the biggest reasons why crimes are not even reported.
The vulnerability of the victim does not stop here, even if the victim musters up the courage to report the crime, the victim is harassed there also. This constant harassment goes till the offender is found guilty. Sometimes it does not stop there also. There are a number of laws for women while investigation and trial, but it is not implemented correctly. Amidst all the harassments, insults, judgments, the lengthy trial gives the victim a hard time. There is a saying that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ which is not at all taken seriously by the judiciary systems, the road to justice is too long.
The tremendous increase in everyday crime against women should be given a full stop. The societal norms and mindsets are deeply engraved in everyone’s mind and lack of education and awareness aids such crimes. The society needs to improve its mentality and attitude although there is a section of society which opposes such patriarchal and blaming the victim game but a large section of society needs change. also, the problem of unreported crimes needs to be addressed. If crimes will be reported, then only justice can be done as it is the first step to a long road to justice.
1.Sexual assaults reports in India , available at : https://www.livemint.com/Politics/AV3sIKoEBAGZozALMX8THK/99-cases-of-sexual-assaults-go-unreported-govt-data-shows.html (Last visited on 30th September 2020).
2.Reasons of unreported sexual assault, available at: https://www.magzter.com/article/Fashion/Glittering-India/The-Real-Reason-Why-Sexual-Harassment-Go-Unreported ( Last visited on 30th September 2020).
3.Closer look at statistics of sexual violence, available at: https://m.thewire.in/article/society/a-closer-look-at-statistics-on-sexual-violence-in-india ( Last visited on 29th September 2020).
BY TRIPTI KHIRWAL | GD GOENKA UNIVERSITY