Why Is Delhi Unable To Shake Off Its ‘Rape Capital’ Tag?

Posted by Shikha Sharma in Gender-Based Violence, News
December 16, 2016

Many described Dec 16, 2012 as the date that would change Delhi’s attitude towards women safety. Thousands protested the brutal gang rape of Jyoti Singh by six men in a moving bus in the nation’s capital. Four years later though, things have only gotten worse in the capital, with one case of rape registered every four hours in the city. That’s six in a day.

This despite the fact that Delhi is the nation’s capital and the country’s seat of power. It is home to India’s President and Prime Minister, and houses the country’s highest decision-making body (Parliament) and judicial body (the Supreme Court). Leader after leader, from the nation’s Prime Minister to the city’s Chief Minister have continued to act concerned about the city’s women, claiming to take steps for their welfare.

Since 2012, the government has initiated a spate of reforms to address different issues related to violence against women and the country even has a tough anti-rape law in place to punish those found guilty.

Yet, as data shows, stories of rape and sexual assault continue to haunt Delhi. According to Delhi police, incidents of rape have only seen a steady rise in the capital from 716 reported incidents in 2012 to 2199 in 2016.

Just this year, on December 13, a 15-year-old girl was gang-raped by four men in south-east Delhi’s Jamia Nagar. The four men had also videotaped the act and blackmailed the teenager. In September, a 3-year-old was brutally raped by her uncle and burnt with cigarettes at their house in Govindpuri. On Thursday night, a woman was allegedly raped in a car in Delhi’s South Moti Bagh area.

Police claim the high numbers are due to an increased reporting of cases, but have no reason for why conviction rates for the same continue to be dismally low. Conviction rate for rape stood at 49.25% in 2012, and dipped further to 35.69% in 2013 and 34.5% in 2014. In 2015, it dropped still further to a mere 29.37% in 2015. Delhi, in fact, reported the highest crime rate (184.3) in the country in 2015 against the national average of 54.3, data from the National Crime Records Bureau revealed. It also got the distinction of having the highest rate of assault on women the same year: 57.8 for 1,00,000 population with 5,367 reported cases.

So what gives? Why is Delhi unable to shun its infamous ‘rape capital’ tag despite all efforts? There are no straight answers, but it is clear the issue is not getting the attention it deserves.

In the last couple of years at least, Delhi’s women have become victims of a power tussle between the Centre and the Delhi Government. The high-level committee on women safety which should be chaired by the Union Home Minister and is supposed to comprise the Delhi CM, Delhi LG, DCW Chairperson and Police Commissioner has not even been constituted on account of the fight for governance going on in the city since 2013. Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor is yet to convene a single meeting on women’s safety in the past year.

The consequence – crucial decisions related to safety of women like the formation of thana level committees, implementation of the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, digitisation of police records, installation of CCTV cameras especially in police stations, construction of toilets, forensic labs and courts are still stuck, awaiting a decision.

The Nirbhaya Fund, set up in the memory of Jyoti Singh, remains grossly underutilised, with the government being able to spend just 40 percent of the 3000 crore corpus.

Programmes of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Commission like the 181 Women Helpline, the Rape Crisis Cell and others are on a verge of closure, clearly suggesting that while much is said in political bluster, little has been done in the past four years to ensure things change on ground.

Many people are of the opinion that rape isn’t a law and order issue, but a social one, and that the solutions lie with reforming society, educating the youth and changing mindsets. True as that may be, the fact remains – when it comes to fighting this issue, Delhi is already waging a losing battle because the government, both at the state and center, is not giving the issue the attention it deserves.

Unless the government takes requisite steps – whether it is a big one like reforming the education system to promote gender-sensitive education or setting up CCTV cameras – lakhs of Delhi women will continue to feel unsafe in the streets of the nation’s capital.