It’s always satisfying when the hard numbers match the beliefs you espouse, and as usual, the latest NCRB figures prove what women have been saying about safety and sexual violence for decades. On the other hand, it is also, of course, depressing to realise that we have numbers to prove the sorry state of affairs we seem to be stuck in.
The NCRB data says that there has been a 12.4 percent increase in the number of rape cases registered in India overall, as opposed to the 5.6% decline in 2014-15, which Livemint says “experts” have put down to under-reporting. It’s hard to ever know why for sure, but it is definitely heartening to think that women in 2016 were more motivated to report cases of rape than in 2015.
Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh kept beating each other to the finish line in terms of being the least safe for women. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of crimes against women, but Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of rapes. Uttar Pradesh saw 12.4 percent of all reported rape cases, but Madhya Pradesh just barely managed to come out on top, with 12.5 percent of all rape cases. In South India, Kerala saw the highest number of reported rapes with 1,656 cases, and Karnataka came a very close second, with 1,655. Amongst the metropolitan cities, Delhi continues to dominate. It accounted for 33 percent of all crimes against women, and 40 percent of all rapes, in metropolitan cities.
One crucial fact the data reveals is that women face the most physical and sexual violence within the home, not on the street. In cases involving the rape of women and children, 94 percent of victims knew their attackers. This is even higher than the commonly used figure of 90 percent, as stated by Reuters in 2015. In fact, of the 994 rape cases registered in Andhra Pradesh last year, all attackers were known to the victims.
According to the NCRB, the majority of cases classified as crimes against women in 2016 were filed under ‘Cruelty by husband or his relatives’ (32.6%), ‘Assault on woman with intent to outrage her modesty’ (25%),‘Kidnapping and abduction of women’ (19%) and ‘Rape’ (11.5%). Meaning that the numbers baldly state that women continue to be at the highest risk of violence at the hands of their spouses and in-laws.
Deeptiman Tiwari of The Indian Express also observes that “most atrocities against Dalits involve atrocities against women”. He analysed the cases of atrocities against Dalits and the cases of rape of Dalit women to observe that sexual violence is clearly continuing to be used as a casteist tool of power.
It’s the clearest indication that our popular portrayal of rape as a crime that happens at the hands of an arbitrary horny stranger on a dark street is a total farce. It reminds one that in every way, this crime is all about power – the power men have over their wives and families, and the power upper caste men wield with impunity.