PROTECTION OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN INDIA
By- Rashneet Singh,4th Year, B.A., LL.B (Hons.) Student at Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida
Sitting at the windowpane and looking out at the young girls playing in my colony street made me wonder about the life of a woman in our country. Their laughter gave me a fear for their safety as they were guarded by none. These three girls aged between 8 and 12 were all alone. They were running and playing with a ball. The innocence in their eyes made a heavenly impact. I smiled at them and got back to reading my newspaper as that is what I was doing before those girls caught my attention. In less than 10 seconds, my smile faded away. I was shocked to read- ‘Minor raped by 17-year-old uncle’- one line and horror went down my spine. Not that it was the first rape news I ever read, but looking at the girls playing outside and reading this next left me stunned. And, that is what urged me to write this article.
Crime against women and children and violation of their rights is an issue concerning authorities all across the globe. It not only affects the cultural aspect of societies but also hampers socio-economic growth. Some nations have taken a step ahead in fighting injustice and have been focusing on the issue of providing better protection for decades.
In India, women, and children have been in a lamentable state over the centuries. Evil practices like child marriage, domestic violence, feticide, honor killing, and child labour, among others are being practiced since ages. It continues to suppress some even though several laws have been made to bring down such traditions. The agony of women in India is such that, every hour a woman dies for not bringing enough dowry. (1)
Apart from these evil practices, incidents of physical assault and sexual abuse are also perpetual in our country. A study shows that about 42% of girls face sexual violence before turning nineteen. The atrocity doesn’t stop here. National Crimes Records Bureau says the rape of minor girls increased by 82% in 2016 as compared to 2015. It is an alarming and chilling increase we have witnessed.
Several acts and laws have been made for the protection of women which includes-
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005, The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 (Amended in 1986), and The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 among others. While laws for the protection of children include Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015, Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act of 2005 and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) of 2012.
Despite all these strict laws, the conviction rate in crime against children stood at 35.6% and that of crime against women at 27.2%. The challenge with the crime against women and children is multidimensional and involves legal, medical, social, and psychological implications.
One of the reasons for the low conviction rate is that the procedure for justice is long-drawn. Thus, victims are easily won over or come under pressure from the accused. Also, a majority of these victims belong to lower economic strata, which makes them more vulnerable.
A few activists claim that this happens due to lapses in the criminal justice system.
The situation gets worse for those who face the trauma after being subjected to assaults by one of their own. There are plenty of cases where either the victims do not turn up to file a complaint, or if they gather the courage to report the incident, they later turn hostile. This usually happens due to societal pressure and also because the family fears the consequences and does not want to exacerbate the matter. In fact, in 95% of rape cases, it is seen that the rapist is not a stranger.
A woman suffers because of her ferocious partner or a family member. To epitomize it, a woman is killed every 10 minutes somewhere in the world by someone they know. (2)
An estimate of 5,000 honor killings is committed every year worldwide. The stats include female rape victims who are killed by male elders of their own families to spare the family from ignominy associated with the stigma of an unmarried sexual violence victim.
Not only countries like India but even developed nations face these issues. A report from Gallup shows that more than one in three women in the U.S fears being sexually assaulted. One in every five women in the U.S is raped at least once in their lifetime, while domestic violence is probably the most ignored torture a child goes through. In the U.S, each year, 1 in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence. (3)
There are organizations like UNICEF which have been working to protect the rights of children and to provide the assistance and services necessary for the task. Some international NGOs are working for the rights and welfare of minors. Child Rights International Network (CRIN), Defense for Children International (DCI), and Save the Children are some of the NGOs which work for a child’s rights. And certain organizations are working for uplifting women and protecting their rights. To name a few, UN Women, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, and Womankind Worldwide are some of the organizations working towards the welfare of women globally. But the point remains, why do we need organizations to work for their protection, why do we need special laws to protect our daughters and minors.
In recent times, there has been a considerable change in-law for the betterment and to provide ease in procuring justice. Juvenile law and rape law changed after the heinous Nirbhaya rape case. The new laws are more rigid and punishments are more stringent. The girl breathed her last in Singapore. Her death left the nation’s head bowed in shame.
Another controversial take on judiciary’s long-drawn and delayed approach is the recent encounter of Telangana based doctor’s rapists by Hyderabad police. Police say they were killed in self-defense, while many claims it was a result of frustration caused by delayed justice. On the other hand, the abolition of laws like triple talaq is some of the small but eminent changes in law structure which would reshape the future of generations to come.
Women in Vedas are glorified as mothers, which means one who can create and nourish life. On the other hand, they are suppressed and deprived by the men in a patriarchal society like India. The suffering of women and children could be traced ever since the beginning of humanity has been found; with time, it has shown a fall-off, and with time it shall decline further. In today’s world, women are stepping out; more and more females are opting for professional careers rather than just sitting back at home behind a veil. With more women showing courage to step out in the cruel world, it has become the need of the hour to develop a society where every woman can breathe safely. Thus, the change is needed, and the change in its real sense will come into existence the day we start teaching our brothers and our sons to respect women. We need to teach men how to be respectful rather than teaching our daughters and sisters to stay quiet and tolerant. The taboo associated with the inferiority of women needs to end.
(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)