The crime graph, released by the Mumbai Police on Tuesday, is not a sight for sore eyes. It is saddening, almost heartbreaking to note that the number of registered cases of rape in the city have risen 14 per cent. The number of vehicular thefts has risen 13 per cent, while robbery cases have gone up 14 per cent.
It is common knowledge that the police in India, leave alone Mumbai, under-report cases to maintain a facade of law and order. In many cases, women do not come forward and report rapes as it leads to social stigma. Indeed, in close to 95 per cent of the cases, the rapist is known to the woman, and therefore, there is an additional burden on the victim to not report the incident, in case it leads to loss of face for the family.
This points to both a societal as well as a law and order problem. While the police cannot be held responsible for societal shortcomings, the department can definitely reach out to women by making police stations approachable in the event of a molestation or a rape. Curiously, the Mumbai Police have not recorded molestation cases. And since 'rape' is strictly defined by Indian law books, a large number of sexual violence cases never qualify as rape in the first place.
Violence against women is one of the fastest growing crimes in Mumbai, as it is across the country, perhaps even in most countries around the world. If Mumbai has to project an image of gender equality as well as that of a safe city to live in as our economy integrates with the rest of the globe, protection of women's rights and indeed prevention of violence against women should become one of the city's top priorities. The myth that Mumbai is a safe city for women has been broken long ago. The Police need to take great strides forward in converting that claim into reality.