Delhi gang-rape: Has anything changed in India after December 16?

In a verdict that the whole nation was waiting for, a fast-track court pronounced four accused guilty in the 2012 December 16 Delhi gang-rape case.

Zee Media Bureau/Manisha Singh

New Delhi: In a verdict that the whole nation was waiting for, a fast-track court in the national capital pronounced four accused guilty in the 2012 December 16 Delhi gang-rape case. The prime conspirator, Ram Singh, killed himself in jail earlier this year, while a minor accused was sentenced to three years in a special home by the Juvenile Justice Board last month

Whereas the verdict has been welcomed by one and all, the question still remains whether things have changed for the better as far as women`s safety is concerned.

The brutal gang-rape last year had shocked and outraged the whole nation and India saw its citizens galvanising like never before seeking more protection and safety of women. The massive protests forced the government to bring in a tougher anti-rape law in March this year, which imposed stricter punishments for violence against women.

However, many in the country still feel that not much has changed at the ground level and women`s safety is still something that needs urgent attention. Cases of rape, assault and violence against women are reported every day. Though, there are some cases, like the brutal rape of a five-year-old girl ‘Gudiya’ in the national capital by two persons in April this year and the gang-rape of a women photo-journalist allegedly by five men in Mumbai on August 22, which grab the headlines, the data pertaining to crime against women tells a story in itself.

In 2012, reports of rape, dowry deaths, sexual harassment, kidnapping, trafficking and other crimes against women in the country rose by 6.4 percent from the previous year. The highest numbers of rapes were recorded in Delhi. As per the figures of NCRB, 244,270 crimes against women were reported to the police last year.

And a per data released by the Praja Foundation, a non-profit organization in Mumbai, there was a 15 percent rise in crimes against women in 2011-12 in the financial capital of India over the previous year, with 207 cases of rape being registered.

Social activist and women`s organisations have repeatedly argued that a change in the mindset of the society as a whole is needed if crime against women has to go down. Also, a change in the mindset of certain sections of politicians and the police force is said to be must. It is an accepted fact that the victim of a sexual violence often hesitates to go to the police station to register a crime for fear of being harassed by cops.

It does not help matters when Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal, says after the Mumbai gang-rape incident that women must pay attention to what they wear. It also does not help matters when a ten year old girl, who was allegedly raped, is put behind bars by cops in Bulandshahr, when she approached them along with her mother to register a complaint.

List of such comments and incidences is a long one, forcing a large section of women to feel in this country that, notwithstanding a tougher rape law, much needs to done as far safety of women is concerned.