By Sheikh Yamina Farooq
Over 1200 sexual assault cases are pending due to backlog at forensic labs and over 31000 rape cases are pending; only three of the six forensic science laboratories in India have the facility to test DNA samples. These statistics are staggering and alarming in their own right especially at a time when crimes against women are rising sharply. Against this backdrop, thousands of forensic DNA samples, which could form crucial evidence in crimes like rape and murder, are lying unexamined across India. The shortage of well equipped, hi-tech laboratories and inadequate staff strength resulted in 12072 DNA samples from as many sexual assault cases piling up in three of the six forensic science laboratories (CFSC’S) across India till Dec’2017 where they await examination according to Directorate of Forensic Science Service (DFSS).
The incidences of crimes against women, especially of a sexual nature are on the rise. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, in 2007, 1 in every 2 children is subjected to sexual abuse in one or more forms, before they reach the age of eighteen. Similarly, the Jammu and Kashmir government holds that 3,1618 cases of crime against women were registered in the state in 2018 as against 2,915 cases in 2016.
Reuter’s research demonstrates that since the 2012 notorious Delhi gang rape, reporting of such cases climbed 60% to around 40,000 in 2016 with child rapes accounting for about 40%. On a related theme, (NCRB) National Crime Records Bureau 2016, statistics show that 30-40% of the total female rape victims were minors.(Source: Crime in India 2012-16, NCRB)
In cases of total crime under POCSO 4.8 lakhs and 10 lakhs were on the tables for the police to investigate and court to conduct trials, respectively.
Owing to the dearth of proper legal administrative systems, a huge number of cases relating to sexual assault and rape are pending. Consequently, the accused find an easy way out. On account of delayed justice, criminals are finding more ways of committing crimes and are living freely, as if no action could ever be taken against them.
The enormity of the issue must make us realize that not only the judicial system but also our minds need reform. A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce and perpetuate their kind.
Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires so may a man tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless and impure thoughts and cultivating towards perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful and pure thoughts.
While the recent brutal rape of an eight year old child acted as an eye opener for people as well as the government which compelled them to ponder upon this severe issue, on account of which some positive amendments were introduced in the POCSO (the protection of child from sexual offences) Act, the question that arises is: will these amendments act as a sufficient deterrent to curb such a menace that is spreading in our society like an incurable disease?
The answers to this question might lie in the following questions.
First, policies must be formed for the speedy and effective trials of cases (it is obvious that if the accused is not presented before the court it is not possible that he/she would be punished. There is an immediate necessity of separate committees dealing with the cases of sexual assault and rapes exclusively.
Second, there is an urgent need to develop separate courts for cases of such nature, so that the victim can get justice in the real sense and, moreover, its speedy and effective trial, would act as a deterrent for others to commit such a crime.
Third, a separate department must be formed in the police station itself that would in turn be monitored and supervised by an independent body, to which these police stations would send a monthly report of such cases. The body should be free from any political influence that even leads to misogyny and nepotism. As the Kathua rape murder case suggests it was some police officers who were themselves involved in this cruel and a cold-blooded act.
Fourth, proper accountability is needed in which media can play an extremely positive and a progressive role.
Religion can also play an important role in curbing this menace. Proper use and check and balance of religious institutions can create wonders and can play a very important role in preventing such crimes.
Last but not the least, there is a need to develop a scientific mindset among people, because an unscientific society makes incompetent rulers rule the roost, so to speak. (No questions are asked; not even basic ones. The ruler has just made a claim and the believers worship him). Rather than conforming, a truly rational community often questions disparity, exploitation, persecution, and on the basis of caste, religion or gender. Mental health also plays a vital role in curbing menaces of such a nature. These steps and measures can, in combination, to a large extent check the menacing issue of crimes against women. Let us take heed now and institute these steps , the soonest!
The author is a Law student at the University of Kashmir. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org