By Manoj Mitta
Rape is a notoriously under-reported crime in India, thanks to its social stigma and because the culprits in most of the cases are known to the victim. Yet, of all the major crimes, the incidence of rape has registered the highest growth in the country in the last four decades.
If there's one big issue raised by Nirbhaya's tragedy it is the high incidence of rape and a low conviction rate for the crime, often caused by a long-winded and lethargic legal process. So, while the current focus is on protests against the young girl’s gang-rape in moving bus last month, we can't move our attention from the really big issue arising from it - how to curb the incidence of rape in the country.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of rape cases registered in India increased by a startling 873.3 percent, from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011. In comparison, the murder cases increased by 250 percent over an even longer period, six decades, starting from 1953 to 2011.
Since delays are one of the main factors affecting the conviction rate, the appointment of five fast-track courts for rape cases in Delhi, in the wake of the public outrage over the gang rape in a bus, is a long overdue measure. Such priority treatment is required to be given in the rest of the country too, although equally serious crimes against women in outlying areas typically get less media attention.
Delhi has earned the odium of the "rape capital" with an incidence of 572 rape cases in 2011. But in the same year, it is Madhya Pradesh that reported the highest number of cases for rape (3,406), molestation (6,665) and importation of girls (45) accounting for 14.1 percent, 15.5 percent and 56.3 percent of the respective national totals.
And when it comes to sexual harassment or "eve-teasing," Andhra Pradesh reported 3,658 cases, accounting for 42.7 percent of the total number booked in the country. Uttar Pradesh has the dubious distinction of topping the states in dowry deaths as its 2,322 cases accounted for 26.9 percent of the national tally.
After Madhya Pradesh (3,406), the states that reported the highest incidence of rape cases in 2011 are West Bengal (2,363), Uttar Pradesh (2,042), Rajasthan (1,800), Maharashtra (1,701), Assam (1,700) and Andhra Pradesh (1,442).
In keeping with a long-established pattern, offenders were known to the victims in 92.9 percent of the rape cases booked across the country (22,549 out of 24,270).
Among the 53 mega cities surveyed by NCRB for all crimes against women including rape, Delhi accounted for 13.3 percent (4,489) followed by Bengaluru 5.6 percent (1,890) and Hyderabad 5.5 percent (1,860).