In a country like India, where crime against women has become a common occurrence, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh made a historic announcement, declaring death sentences for those found guilty of committing crimes against women in the state. This move marks a significant change, making Madhya Pradesh the first Indian state to impose such a punishment.
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Now, what do we mean by “crimes against women”? And why is this declaration considered a significant step? Do we not already have laws against these crimes? If we do, how strict are they, and what actions does the administration take to prevent women from enduring these crimes repeatedly?
When we refer to “crime against women,” we are not solely addressing the physical abuse they endure; we must also acknowledge the mental harassment they face while trying to survive in society. Serious offenses against women include rape and dowry death, but there are numerous other crimes such as kidnapping, female foeticide, domestic violence, forced marriage, verbal abuse, marital rape, voyeurism, stalking, eve-teasing, cyberbullying, acid attacks, and honor killings, among others. Additionally, there might be many other crimes that go unreported or undiscovered by the victims.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, reported incidents of crime against women increased by 15.3% in 2021 compared to 2020. In 2011, there were more than 228,650 reported incidents of crime against women, while in 2021, this number surged to 428,278, signifying an 87% increase. These figures are even more concerning considering that the overall cases of crimes against women had decreased by 8.3% from 2019 to 2020 due to repeated lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of all the women in India, 7.5% reside in West Bengal, where 12.7% of the total reported crimes against women occur. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh is home to 7.3% of India’s female population and accounts for 11.5% of the total reported crimes against women.
An alarming aspect of this situation is that 65% of Indian men believe women should tolerate violence to maintain family unity, and some believe women even deserve to be physically abused. A survey conducted in January 2011 revealed that 24% of Indian men admitted to having committed sexual violence at some point in their lives.
Accurately quantifying the number of cases is difficult since a significant number of them go unreported. This is mainly due to the fear of ridicule or shame faced by potential reporters, as well as immense pressure not to bring dishonor to the family. Consequently, law enforcement officers may be more inclined to accept bribes from the accused’s family, or they might fear more severe consequences, such as honor killings.
In 2021, the crime rate per lakh of women population was 64.5, higher than the 2020 rate of 56.5. Mumbai, often called the city that never sleeps, has also witnessed various crimes against women. However, the Times of India reported in 2023 that overall crimes against women in the city reduced by 5% in the first four months of 2023 compared to the same period in the previous year, with molestation cases decreasing by 15%.
In total, 1,977 crimes against women were registered in Jan-April 2023, down from 2,078 offenses in Jan-April 2022. Except for rape and kidnapping cases, all other crimes against women decreased. Overall detection rates also improved from 65% to 74%, according to data from the Mumbai Police.
While the Indian Penal Code does provide punishments for these crimes, they are not as strict as they should be. For instance, for rape, stalking, acid attacks, and dowry death, the maximum punishment is life imprisonment. However, this often leads to some convicts being released early based on good conduct. The court may not fully consider the damage these offenders have caused to the lives of the women they have harmed, and some convicts tend to repeat the same crimes or harass the women who reported them.
The death sentence punishment announced by the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh is indeed a positive change. In declaring the punishment, the CM emphasized that women’s safety is of utmost importance to the BJP government. The state has implemented various schemes for women’s empowerment, such as Ladli Lakshmi Yojana, Kanya Vivah Yojana, 50% reservation in local body elections, and Sambal Yojana, all aimed at ensuring a safe environment for women to live with dignity. By becoming the first state to declare the death sentence for crimes against women, Madhya Pradesh takes a bold step in protecting women’s rights and safety.
“So, in the end, it’s commendable that the MP government is coming up with strict punishments for crimes and rapes. However, we need to address the root cause, which is eve teasing. If complaints about eve teasers are taken seriously and the culprits are promptly punished at the initial stage, rapes might occur less frequently or, hopefully, not at all. The administration should treat any complaint made by women seriously, whether it’s about simple eve teasing or, in extreme cases, physical abuse. Only then can we expect to witness a decline in rape cases in our country and successfully make our country safer for women.”
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