This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by India Development Review (IDR). Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

We NEED To Change How We Report Crimes Against Women

More from India Development Review (IDR)

By Havovi WadiaJyoti Nale-Tajane

An increase in the number of recorded crimes is often cited as evidence of an increase in violence, particularly against women and children. However, as activists and experts have been saying for several years, this is a multi-headed hydra.

On one hand, there is greater visibility of crimes against women—these get reported in the media and discussed on television. On the other, there is also the awareness of significant under-reporting of crimes in the past, and the present, in most parts of the country. So an increase in the reporting is also seen as evidence that women now feel more able to access the justice system, and report crimes, where earlier they would have felt pressured to ‘manage situations’ in socially acceptable ways.

When we interpret data in a linear fashion—crimes registered equals increased crime rates—it puts pressure on police to not register complaints. Representational image.

Similarly, when rates of recorded crimes drop, this may not be an indication of greater safety for women. It may, as in the case of the recent pandemic, mean that women have not been able to get out of their homes or restricted environments, to actually report these crimes.

This complexity is reflected in two recent incidents both involving officially recorded data for crimes against women and children.

There Is A Limited Correlation Between Crimes Registered And Actual Crimes Against Women

In December 2020, Nagpur City police Chief Amitesh Kumar wrote to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)1 regarding their mistake in calculating the crime rate using the 2011 census figures as the denominator. In the NCRB figures, Nagpur takes second place in crime records in the country after Patna. The Nagpur police argued that the 2011 census records were outdated and did not consider factors such as an increase in population, an extension of city jurisdictions, and so on.

However, perhaps the Nagpur police may have also wanted to highlight a few other problems with the way that data for crimes against women relates to the increase or decrease in actual crimes committed. The rise in reported crime could be due to increased awareness about justice systems among women, or the ways that they can approach the police, or it could be attributed to improved responses from the law enforcement systems.

For instance, in Nagpur, Save The Children India (STCI) has been working with the police, prosecutors, district legal services authorities, shelter home personnel, and judges for the past three years. During this time, training and support have enabled these stakeholders to understand how important it is to respond to women complainants with empathy and clarity, and how critical it is to keep them apprised of the progress of their case. As a result, of the 25 cases of human trafficking in the district, five resulted in convictions.

Person reading a newspaper-crimes against women
It is critical that data be placed in context so that it furthers the cause of justice and equity for vulnerable populations. Picture courtesy: Bo Nielsen

In such cases, police become far more responsive when female citizens come into the police station to register a complaint, unlike several other instances where one hears of the police refusing to register a complaint. This willingness to listen and register complaints may lead to an increase in recorded crime rates. However, this may be a reflection of a better system, rather than an increase in crime.

When we interpret data in a linear fashion—crimes registered equals increased crime rates—it puts pressure on police to not register complaints. This is counter-productive in efforts to ensure justice for women. Cities that have not done justice to their policing role, and make it harder for women to access the system, may get the impression of accomplishment and may get lauded for what may actually be police inaction.

The Lockdown Made It Harder To Report Violence Against Women

In the second case, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Chouhan supported the creation of a system where women moving out of their homes for work, would have to register at the police station and would be tracked for their safety. He also claimed that crimes against women had declined by 15% since he came to power in early 2020.

In this case, a decline in the recorded crimes is widely being acknowledged by experts, to be because of the lockdown. “A significant share of violence against women is not reported for a variety of reasons, some of which may have been exacerbated in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as fear of retaliation by the perpetrator, limited contact with informal support systems (friends and family members), restricted access to the police, and other essential services because of confinement measures,” according to a paper by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Women did not have access to institutions that they could report crimes, and there was a reduction in the capacity—in terms of human resources and bandwidth—of authorities to record those incidents.

Related article: What’s missing when we talk about gender-based violence?

On the other hand, it is widely documented that within the restricted space of the home, there has been an increase in the experience of violence. Helplines reported multiples of their regular call rates during the strict lockdown periods. Again here, citing data without a full acknowledgement of its context is communicating the exact opposite of what the data actually says.

How Can We Change This?

The first thing to acknowledge is that we all want a system that enables citizens to be reassured regarding their safety. Once we accept this, the action points need just a little application and collaboration.

1. Look beyond the number of cases registered

In terms of data, there are four indicators that are closely related and are quantitative in nature. These are the number of cases registered, number of bail petitions granted, number of cases concluded, and the number of convictions. Together these help us understand, not the extent of crime in a district, but the response of the system to those crimes. The latter is critical in building the confidence of women in the system. It is not the magnitude of the sentence, but the certainty of the prosecution that will help increase the faith of the people in the process of justice.

Therefore, when crime data is being looked at it is important to co-relate all these rather than just tabulating the number of crimes registered, and treating it as a reflection of the extent of crime in the district.

Image source: Feminism In India

2. Appreciate and replicate responsive efforts

In several districts, there is a will to work on what has traditionally been seen as softer issues. For instance, in 2019, the Police Commissioner in Nagpur began a Bharosa Cell 2. When he was transferred to Pune, he started this cell there as well. It continues to engage and respond to all women and children related issues, and all officers are trained to be empathetic to women who come in with a grievance.

It is important for initiatives like this to be regularly reviewed, tracked using data, and for senior officers to promote discussions about them so that there are incentives for the district police personnel to continue with such efforts.

3. Positive reinforcement for those in the justice system

Where a case is resolved and justice ensured for a woman, it is important to celebrate the investigating officer and the entire prosecution team, including the judge. At present, the focus is on the crime itself, the accused, and the victim. Both in the government system and media, there is little effort to acknowledge the teamwork it takes to prosecute and convict. Therefore, for those in the system, the job often seems thankless.

4. Retain cases in public memory

To ensure consistency of reporting women must believe that the system does work. It is critical that the case is followed in the media through its course and not just when it begins and ends. This is critical if we want to build faith among people that even though the system takes time, it is thorough and works. Currently, the perception of the justice system is based on the what people see on television and the movies; as a result, the effort and process is often misunderstood and misjudged.

Related article: How to work with boys to reduce violence against women

5. Look at related data sets

Finally, it may help to also look at related data points when we report on the safety of women in a district. For instance, data on physical and sexual intimate partner violence is available from the NFHS at a district level and can help give a sense of the extent of crime and the level of reporting against them.

The purpose of collecting and analysing data is to understand situations and their contexts, as well as to monitor service and see whether it benefits a populace. If the data is divorced from this purpose, it becomes counterproductive to the cause which it is meant to serve and may result in doing more harm than good. Particularly in the case of violence against women and children, it is critical that data be placed in context so that it furthers the cause of justice and equity for vulnerable populations.

The Anti Human Trafficking Team at STCI contributed to this article.

This article was originally published on India Development Review.

About the author:

Havovi Wadia is CEO at STCI. She has over two decades of experience across diverse sectors having started her career as a teacher, moved into banking, and then to the development sector. She is committed to the rights of children and to an understanding of childhoods. Her current focus is on visualising the particular vulnerabilities of survivors of trafficking and children with disabilities and finding ways to mobilise support, and long-term change for them from a range of stakeholders.

Jyoti Nale-Tajane has 16 years of experience in the development sector working on human trafficking, child protection, gender-based violence, and urban and rural livelihoods. She holds a masters degree in social work from the College of Social Work-Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai University, and PGPDM from S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai. She heads the anti-human trafficking and vocational skills training initiatives at STCI and is responsible for coordinating comprehensive programmatic and financial planning activities, designing overall monitoring, and evaluation framework.

You must be to comment.

More from India Development Review (IDR)

Similar Posts

By Charkha features

By Vaivab

By Shashi.

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below