The number of rape cases this year is highest in the last 13 years but Delhi Police has attributed it to greater awareness and registering of cases which otherwise would have gone unreported.
    
According to Delhi Police data, a total of 1,493 cases of rape were registered in the national capital till November 30, which is more than double the number of cases registered in the same period in 2012.
    
What is more alarming is that the number of cases of molestation has registered a five-fold increase as till November 2013, a total of 3,237 such cases were registered as against 625 last year. Cases related to outraging the modesty of women that includes eve-teasing and stalking also show a similar trend with the figure skyrocketing to 852 from last year's 165.
    
As per the data of National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), a total of 706 rape cases were registered in 2012, while the numbers of registered rape cases were 572 in 2011 as against 507 rape cases reported in 2010. The figure stood at 469 in 2009. In 2008, the figure was 466, while in 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 the figures were 598, 623, 658, 551, 490, 403 and 381 respectively. However, Delhi Police terms it as a good sign that now more cases are being registered, which means that more women are coming forward and reporting the crimes which probably was not the case earlier.

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According to a senior police official, "The rise in the number of reported cases means that now women are coming forward and reporting such incidents. Earlier, a number of cases went unreported as women were afraid of contacting the police and also the social stigma which came with it. "Today, complaints are recorded verbatim and FIRs are filed simply on the basis of women's complaint without raising any issue. This has caused significant rise in the number of registered cases but we are not deterred by it," he said.     

Police have set up women help desks at police stations which are functional round-the-clock, increased lines of police helpline '100' from 60 to 100 and were registering cases anywhere in the capital without bothering about the jurisdiction.

A 'Crime Against Women' Cell has been established for redressal of complaints and grievances of women in distress. An all-women police mobile team has been made functional round-the-clock.

Women officers are now primarily investigating rape cases. Orders have been issued to ensure immediate registration of FIRs in cases of crime against women and efforts are made to file chargesheet against the accused within three months. Patrolling has been increased, especially at night and on routes taken by BPO vehicles ferrying women. The number of PCR vans has also been increased. Currently, around 850 PCR vans are patrolling streets of the national capital and they are a vital cog in ensuring women's security, according to Delhi Police. 24-hour police cover has also been ensured around entertainment hubs like malls and cinema halls with heightened vigil from 8 PM to 1 AM. A woman can also dial 100 and get dropped home at night by a PCR van if she is stranded somewhere. The police also involved the community to ensure security and self-defence training was provided to hundreds of women.

Students perform street-play in memory of Nirbhaya and other victims of rape and violence at Marine Drive in Mumbai
   
A 'Parivartan' scheme was also launched in order to create awareness in schools, localities and police stations, sending women police personnel to patrol the neighbouring areas. Women groups were encouraged to form a monitoring system in their vicinity. The reforms even caught the eye of the French government, which is grappling with women's security issues back home. A delegation consisting of their Minister for Women's Rights and the French Ambassador met Delhi Police officials in October to study the measures taken by it to deal with the menace.  The police may argue that so much has been done in the last one year but the national capital has always been termed unsafe for women and even statistics support this as only one out of ten women here go out to work.

According to Primary Census Abstract 2011, the number of working women in the National Capital Territory stands at a mere 10.58 percent, which is even lower than states like Jharkhand and Bihar, which are considered 'BIMARU'. And the obvious reason why an average Delhi woman is scared to step out and work is that she and her family is not sure whether she will be safe on the roads, in the public transport bus or when she walks back home from the bus stop to her house on a deserted lane which is not properly lit.

GOVERNMENT’S MEASURES FOR SAFER DELHI

The brutal gang-rape of the 23-year-old on the moving bus had led to massive public outcry with thousands of people pouring out on streets in rage forcing the Parliament to enact a new anti-rape law but nothing much has changed when it comes to safety of women in the capital.

The Delhi Government had rolled out a slew of initiatives like setting up a helpline (181) for women but its promise of installing GPS system in buses and autos, introduction of special pink autos for women and streamlining the transport system remained on paper.
    
The Centre had brought a legislation in April that provided for life term and even death sentence for rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013 was brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gang-rape, and it was named the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. The law, passed by Lok Sabha on March 19 and by Rajya Sabha on March 21, replaced an Ordinance promulgated on February 3.

It amended various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
    
With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against crimes like rapes, the new law stated that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict's natural life and with a fine.

It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes. The law, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will get a 10-year jail term.


   

WHERE IS THE CHANGE? ASK WOMEN

Though the governments, both at the Centre and the city, claimed they have initiated a number of measures to improve security of women, experts and activists feel not much success has been achieved to make women feel safe in Delhi.

"I still don't feel safe while travelling by public transport, auto drivers still refuse to go to certain destinations. I still haven't seen any PCR patrolling regularly in my area," said Bhawna Tuteja, a working professional.
        
Even the victim's father rued that even after so much hue and cry, the "change" is missing. "There were huge protests and even the laws were changed and police have become more active and alert, but have the crimes against women stopped. Every other day cases of rape and sexual harassment are getting reported, where is the change. I don't see any change...do you?" he said.
    
Jyoti Bhardwaj, a law-student said that the fast track court took more than eight months to come up with justice in a single case of the gang-rape victim while there are innumerable other cases that remain practically unattended.

"We must remember that the girl was not killed by a group of horrifically misguided individuals, but it was a result of an existing culture of having scant respect for girls and women," says Vijaylakshi, a Delhi University faculty and convener of Women's cell.

"My friends in Mumbai can go out at 12 in the night but here you don't feel comfortable if you are alone on the road even at 7 PM. After 8, auto-rickshaw drivers either totally refuse to go to some localities or take hefty charges forcing us to share a ride with drunken men and hooligans in Grameen Seva vehicles," said 25-year-old Nitisha Agnihotri, who works at an airline company at Connaught Place and commutes everyday from Nangloi.
    
Dr Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research, believes that the Congress government had to bear the brunt of the unfortunate incidents of rape in the last few years in the recent assembly election. "The voters had all the reasons to feel cheated by the government. The results are available for everyone to see, "she says.
    
According to another women activist, Kavita Krishnan, "Giving death penalties would not satisfy those lakhs of women who have to deal with issues of their security and violence against them in their day to day life and find no answers to what the government is doing about them."

A section of women activists, however, believe that there are high hopes of improvement in the coming years.
    
"It has given strength to women at least. They are no longer afraid of coming out and accepting what they are suffering from. This is the situation unlike the past years," says Kamla Bhasin, founder member of Jagori, an NGO for women.

Demonstrators perform a street play on rape during a protest to mark the first anniversary of Delhi gang-rape

NIRBHAYA FUND WILL BE UTILIZED SOON, SAYS HOME MINISTER

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said on Monday that the Nirbhaya Fund for ensuring safety of women, set up in memory of the braveheart, would soon be utilized.

"The Nirbhaya Fund that was set up for women's safety will be utilized soon," Sushilkumar Shinde said, while speaking with reporters outside parliament.

Asked about legal measures to ensure the safety of women, Shinde said, "Amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code had to be done, and the work has started in that context. The work will happen more properly now."

The 23-year-old physiotherapy intern who was gang-raped in a moving bus Dec 16 was named "Nirbhaya" or fearless one by the media. The law in India does not allow a victim of rape to be referred to by name.

JPN/Agencies

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