Every day newspapers and TV news apprise us of the menace of crime against women in India. This is rapidly increasing in spite of the implementation of Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013. Crime against women is not a new phenomenon. Women in every society have been victims of humiliation, torture and exploitation for long. Ideologies, institutional practices and the existing norms in every society have contributed much to their harassment. Crime against women in India is increasing at an alarming rate, be it rape, abduction, dowry deaths, wife battering, acid attacks, or honour killing. The data published by different agencies shows that crime against women is increasing constantly every year. The country has witnessed a 74 percent increase in crimes against women over the past 15 years between 1998 and 2011. According to a report published by the Lok Sabha Secretariat (N0.2/RN/Ref/2013), the total incidents of crime against women (both under IPC and SLL), which were 1,85,321 in 2007, increased to 2,28,650 in 2011. In 2012, this number was 2,44,270, an increase of more than 7 percent over the previous year.
After independence, India enacted various legislative measures intended to ensure equal rights to counter social discrimination and various forms of violence. Some of these are the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, the Special Marriage Act, 1954, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Articles 15, 16 and 21-a, and so on. Additionally, to decrease the level of crime against women, every year the Government of India tries to frame different policies and programmes. But still, the level of crime is increasing day by day and year by year. No doubt, India has decreased the gap between the two genders with its policies and programmes, but they still demand a proper mechanism. Apparently, all institutions are empowered to control crime but on the ground they are handicapped or unable to do so.
India has adopted various programmes and policies to improve the educational, social, political and economic standards of women. In case of education, literacy has increased from 0.6% in 1901 to 65% in 2018. For pursuing higher education, Government of India has introduced scholarships, loan facilities, hostel facilities, etc. In fact, the National Educational Policy 1986 was also in favour of women. Through it, the opening of Women’s Studies centers in colleges and universities was promoted. Regarding employment, India has achieved a remarkable increase in the number of women going out of the four walls of the household and becoming paid workers in different institutions. The number of women employees is steadily increasing. Women working as doctors, professors, advocates, judges, administrators, authors, personal assistants, etc, are to be found in every institution.
India has empowered women in every field of life but has failed in providing a mechanism that can protect them from violence. The laws which India has are not compatible with the present structure of Indian society. The structure of Indian society has changed a lot but society needs new governing values for its institutions to be functional. India needs to adopt a new model of development for society in such a scenario, which has the capacity to curb heinous crimes against women. The model of development which currently prevails in India is not compatible with this aim. Our present social environment is very different from every type of society in the past. Every institution and social sphere has been changed by the internet. The Government of India has to review the impact of internet in society and make some new cyber laws to prevent it from encouraging or aiding in crime against women. The internet perpetuates violence against women through ways like pornography, stalking, online abuse, etc.
Indian society has evolved through different stages of change. Its governing values have also changed from time to time to create equilibrium in society. But there is still no coherent response to the dangers of the internet. New values and governing laws have to be framed regarding the internet, its use, and its future.
—The writer is a Sociology tutor at Aims Coaching Center, Kulgam. [email protected]