The protesters in New Delhi, out on the streets over the weekend to raise their voice against the brutal rape of a five-year-old, may have got national and international attention on the plight of juvenile rape victims, but it is also clear that their protests need to mean something on the ground for any change to take effect. Laws alone won’t help.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 48,338 child rape cases were reported in India between 2001 and 2011 — Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number at 9,465, followed by Maharashtra with 6,868 cases, UP 5,949, Andhra Pradesh 3,977 and Chhattisgarh 3,688.
Between 2010 and 2011, child rape cases went up by 30% in India, from 5,484 to 7,112. According to the United Nations, one in every three persons raped in India is a minor. Experts say that hundreds of thousands of cases of child rape go unreported either because the child in unable to figure out what has happened or the parents refuse to file a case as, in a majority of cases, the rapist is a relative or a friend of the family.
This is compounded by a low conviction rate. According to NCRB data (2011), the national conviction rate for rape is a mere 26.4%.
It is important that the Indian state focuses on providing an environment of safety, rather than make more laws which, due to lax implementation, have minimal impact. Some of the most horrific statistics on rape come from Scandinavian countries, but they are also considered the safest for women. And it is only because the justice system there does what it is designed to do – deliver justice.
Sexual crimes cannot be wished away. India would do well to be seen as delivering justice rather than just preaching homilies on women’s safety.