Asia-Pacific, Gender, Headlines, Human Rights

INDIA: 60 Registered Rapes a Day

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India, Mar 11 2011 (IPS) - It was just past 9 p.m. of Feb. 1 when guards of the Ernakulam-Shornur train found 23-year-old Soumya, an accountant, unconscious near the railway tracks at Vettikkattiri in Thrissur district, Kerala state.

Soumya was her family’s breadwinner and had been travelling home from work in Kochi city when a notorious youth reportedly dragged her from the women’s compartment, pushed her out, smashed her head with a stone and raped her.

Soumya died five days later.

What happened to Soumya is not an isolated sexual horror. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says rape is the fastest growing crime in India, with a spike in the number of cases reported for January and February 2011.

According to the NCRB, a total of 21,397 rape incidents were reported countrywide in 2009. There were also more than 25,000 cases of kidnapping and abduction of women, aside from cases of molestation which numbered more than 38,000.

In 1990, the number of reported rape cases was 10,068, a figure which jumped to 16,496 in 2000.

Experts attribute the increase in rapes to various factors: the growing urbanisation, a lack of value-based education, dwindling healthy social relationships, and easy access to vulgar pornography.

They also blame it on the shift from larger families to nuclear ones. Another factor is the increasing presence of goons hired by local politicians.

Dr. K. Pramodu, a well-known sexologist and director of the Kochi-based Promod’s Sexual and Marital Health institute, told IPS that a major attitudinal change had occurred in the minds of Indian youths in the past ten years.

The Internet has made images of sex widely accessible, Pramodu said. At the same time, Pramodu noted that a positive attitude by law enforcement agencies has encouraged women to come out and file complaints against their attackers.

The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of rape cases at nearly 3,000 in 2009.

Dr. K. P. Pothen, sociology professor at Indore in Madhya Pradesh who studied rapes cases in central India, said the incidence of rape was increasing compared to the previous decade.

“Both minors and adults are involved in rapes,” Pothen said. He added that where the victim is below 16 years old, very few cases are reported because the matter is considered delicate. Pothen also noted an increase in deaths of rape victims.

NCRB records show that one-fourth of all rape cases in cities in 2009 were reported in the Indian capital New Delhi.

Among 35 mega cities in India, Delhi reported 404 rape cases in 2009. The number of kidnapping and abductions of women was 1,379 while reported molestation cases were close to 500.

According to a United Nations survey in 2010, almost 85 percent of women in the capital felt unsafe and feared being sexually harassed. “Women feel more vulnerable while travelling in a bus, waiting at the bus stop, walking on the streets and in market places,” the survey found.

Archna Rajeev, a senior journalist in New Delhi, told IPS that the capital was experiencing a high influx of people from all over India, primarily from the northern states, as people migrate towards better opportunities and living conditions.

“Delhi, with rapid urbanisation, high rates of education and intense access to media, has also resulted in changing values among the youth,” Rajeev said. “As a result of the growing economy and increased job opportunity, a large number of young girls are joining the work force. But their security is minimal in and outside of organisations.”

NCRB statistics also show an increase in reported incest rape cases from 309 in 2008 to 404 in 2009. But there is severe under-reporting of such cases. Crime experts say incest rapes account for the highest number of rapes in the country, with most not reported.

Dr. Arun Kumar, a Bangalore-based criminologist, says victims refuse to talk about incest rape. “Many illegal incest cohabitations are happening in family circles. Both the victim and assaulter do not reveal the truth,” Kumar said.

Women writers describe the increasing trend of sexual abuse and violence against women as a byproduct of vulgarity in media and commercialisation of human relationships.

“Nowadays, the safety and security of women is a great concern to all,” says poet, author and columnist O. V. Usha. “The seductive advertising has unlimited influence on youngsters. We, people and government, ought to do more to stop atrocities against females.”

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