Nirbhaya aftermath

On 16 December 2012, a 23 year old female physiotherapy intern was brutally gang raped, beaten and tortured in a private bus in metropolitan city, national capital Delhi. Due to some legal reasons initially her name was kept as “Nirbhaya” which means “fearless” but later on her own parents declared her original name as “Jyoti Singh”. A male friend of Jyoti named Awindra Pratap Pandey was with her at the time of crime. Awindra was badly beaten up and thrown out of the bus by the culprits.

There were total 6 accused who committed heinous crime. Conviction charges on them are of Rape, Murder, Kidnapping, Robbery and Assaults. One of the convict, Ram Singh, a driver died in trial period while others including Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakur were awarded death sentence by a trial court in September 2013 and six months later high court upheld conviction and sentence. All four approached Supreme Court, which stayed their execution in 2014. Juvenile defendant Md. Afroz was released on 20 December 2016. Parents of Nirbhaya are still struggling and regularly attending court proceedings for justice.

Both nationally and internationally this incident generated a widespread coverage, outrage, anger among masses and was widely condemned by Indians. But funnily enough India was still given the title of “Rape capital of the world” even though it has much less crimes against women. And how did that happen? Through the western propaganda system.

India’s Daughter, a documentary inspired by Nirbhaya was directed by Leslee Udwin as a part of BBC’s ongoing Storyville series and broadcasted in UK on 4 March 2015. While Indian film-makers would have had major difficulty in meeting the accused, Udwin got uninterrupted access to the criminals in Tihar Jail. And she did what western propagandists do best- distort the statements of criminals and use them to paint the whole Indian society as evil. The protests on India gate or high rape rates in west got no mention. Another major work in similar pattern was by Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta film titled Anatomy of Violence (2016).

But leaving the propaganda aside, how much attention has been paid to the developments post this crime. In the aftermath of this incident, Nirbhaya Trust was made to give assistance to women who have experienced violence to find legal assistance. Government of India setup Nirbhaya Fund to address violence against women and fund is governed by Department of Economic Affairs of the Finance Ministry. However, as of March 2015, a very little fund has been spent on women’s safety. But at present, how many of us know about the laws changed post this incident?

As a result of the protests in December 2012, a judicial committee was set up to amend laws in order to provide faster and quicker investigations and prosecution of sex offenders as suggested by public. After considering nearly 80,000 suggestions the committee came up with a conclusion that root cause behind the crime against women is the govt. and the police. A few amendments made in Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 are inclusion of new offenses like acid attack, stalking, sexual harassment and voyeurism. The enforcement of law is the biggest problem for both the rural and urban areas in India. But those who directed the media backlash against whole India hardly care to point about the developments since then.

Some results so far: –

  • Govt. of Karnataka announced a 24/7 helpline number (1091) to be operated by state police to register sexual abuse complaints from women.

  • Govt. of Tamil Nadu announced a 13 – point action plan to ensure safety of women in Tamil Nadu and probes to be instructed to top police officials.

  • Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir announced plan to change state laws against sexual and gender crimes.

  • Govt. of Himachal Pradesh announced to setup state and district level committees to keep an eye on progress of all crime cases against women.

  • On 22 December 2015, Rajya Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice Bill which proposed that the accused that are above 16 years of age will be treated as an adult in the court of law.

  • On 9 September 2016, a new initiative of five all women PCR vans launched in Delhi.

These are just some examples. Recently on 30 August 2016, Minister of Home Affairs Sri Rajnath Singh released annual report of “Crime in India” 2015 which shows a decrease of 3.1% under crime against women (from 3,37,922 cases in 2014 to 3,27,394 cases in 2015).

As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), total 34,651 rape cases were reported in India in 2015. Out of which in 33,098 cases the offenders were known to the victim. Madhya Pradesh, highest in rape cases among the states reported 4,391 rape cases while Delhi, a national capital and metropolitan city witnessed highest number of rape cases i.e. 2,199 among union territories. But there are also chances of cases which are not reported to Police in sake of family dignity, respect and women reputation or image. In Kerala, 910 rape cases were reported in first six months of 2016. The number of rape cases reported in the previous year was 1263.

So, the question is to the media, why they do not highlight the new developments and commitment of Indian society towards addressing such crimes. Making people aware about the laws will go a long way in helping women against predation. But this is something which is disregarded and we decided to test the effectiveness of new laws by talking to some young people.

To do this we interviewed few female as well as male students (age group of 20 to 22 year) about the incident of December 2012, to understand about their views and sensitivity. First person whom we talked with, Shikha Yadav, a student of 22year old had no knowledge of amendments made in existing laws. She came to Delhi in 2016. Another girl, Anamika a student of Delhi University came to Delhi in year 2013. Her reaction to the incident of gang rape in 2016 is described by her as huge sadness loaded with a deepest fear. The reactions of boys were totally different from those of girls. According to Mayank Bharadwaj a student of engineering, girls should become self-sufficient in order to fight against any sort of mis-happenings. He says that government should morally educate people and also appoint more number of judges to take care of increasing number of cases. Another student, Arun Rai knew about the law protecting women from domestic violence. He thinks hard punishment should be served only after convict is proven guilty as many girls misuse rape charges for personal grudges. Both Mayank and Arun agree on a common note that there are no laws against false rape cases which seriously need to be checked. One of the common reactions of all the participants was that they all had deep sense of fear accompanied by a lot of anger and emotions in their mind. We also came across the false rape cases and it seems there should be proper regulating and monitoring body to deal with both actual and fake rape cases.

To summarize, the new laws seemed to have added some teeth to existing laws but they seem to generate different reactions in men and women. The prevalence of large number of fake rape cases has created fear among men. So, the problem which still seems to be gripping such issues is the delivery of justice in such cases. While new laws look good on paper, but unless there is increase in the number of judges to deliver fast justice in such cases, it will only create problems and the way two sexes look at the problem. The support of Indian public in fighting such problems was amply displayed during the protests, but what is needed now is swift justice delivery aside from removing stigma from such cases.

Recently, Women and Child development minister Maneka Gandhi said “India ranked among the lowest four countries in the world in terms of rape cases”. This puts light on the fact that there is a zero level of tolerance towards rape cases in India and as result more cases are reported in comparison to other countries. However, we need effective implementation of strong measures that were proposed immediately after Nirbhaya case. The emphasis should be on providing speedy justice and compensation to victims as well as to prevent fake cases. It’s time to accept changes, remove ignorance, change perceptions and spread awareness.


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About Authors

Indu Pandey has completed M.Phil. in Comparative Indian Literature from Department of Indian Languages and Literary Studies from University of Delhi. She is currently enrolled in PG Diploma in Journalism (English) at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Delhi. Her area of interest is women studies, gender studies, film studies and new media.

Arpita Raj has completed her graduation from Jamia Millia Islamia. Presently, she is pursuing Post Graduation Diploma in Journalism (English) from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Delhi. Her area of interest is culture studies, media studies and theatre.