The silence that breeds crimes against women

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The silence that breeds crimes against women  HYDERABAD: Telangana and Andhra Pradesh together contribute to 11.5 per cent of crimes against women in the country, the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics reveal. The two states are second only to West Bengal, which contributes to 12.7 per cent of such cases. However, women rights activists are worried more about the sheer number of unreported attacks, both sexual and otherwise, against women.

“NCRB data should be taken only as an indicator as it reflects only reported cases. For every case of sex crime that is reported, 20 go unreported,” says Sunitha Krishnan, co-founder of Prajwala that dealt with over 136 cases of crime against girl children in 2014.

NGOs say that less than 40% of the cases that come their way get registered in police stations in the state. While social stigma prevents women from reporting sexual assault cases, they keep away from reporting dowry harassment cases and assault for failing to bear a male child in order to ‘guard’ the family’s honour. Also ignored are suicides due by harassment.

As per the NCRB data for 2012, a total of 28,171 cases of crimes against women were reported from undivided Andhra Pradesh, a figure just thousands below West Bengal’s 30,942 cases. However, activists state that most cases do not come out as families maintain secrecy. As 94% of rape cases in India are committed by men who are known to the victim, silence is counterproductive and stigma against reporting such violence should go, they maintain.

“Women from poor socio-economic backgrounds tend to report most cases of violence and rape than women who belong to a higher social order. Stigma against sexual assault is more apparent and prevalent in middle class families living in big cities,” said Devendra, a women’s rights activist from Chaitanya Mahila Sangham, an NGO that comes across more than 100 cases of crimes against women in a year.

According to activists, topics such as marital rape are not discussed even in the most progressive of cities in the state. “Marital rape is still not considered a crime. One, because it does not have a legal standing in the country till date and two, most families tend to make women believe that they are supposed to withstand such violence in a marriage,” said Janaki Sharma, a rights activist. As much as 20% of the rapes reported in the country and the two states are those committed by husbands against wives, police data points out.

Why do such cases not come out in the open even two years after the brutal rape and murder of a medical student in the national capital that sparked huge protests across the country? “More often than not, what is daunting for women is to gather the confidence to establish their own credibility, to be heard or taken seriously when they report a crime. To muster up this courage before a socially superior male, such as in cases of dalit women being raped by upper caste men, or assault within the natal or marital family, is itself an onerous task,” said HS Nikhila, associate professor, English and Foreign Languages University.

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