April 28, 2014 Articles

Obstacle in Indian Law Reform Addressing Sexual Assault of Women

India has been ranked the fourth-most dangerous country in the world for women.

By Anannya Tripathy

India has been ranked the fourth-most dangerous country in the world for women, with women subject to atrocities such as gang rape, sexual assault, and harassment every day. According to a recent statistic from a United Nations panel, in India, “every 60 minutes two women are raped, and every six hours a young married woman is found beaten to death, burnt or driven to suicide.” Despite the high rate of incidents reported, very few cases are investigated. Even fewer result in a conviction. Of the 706 rape cases filed in 2012 in New Delhi, 64 were recorded by the police. Of those 64 recorded cases, only four of those cases were investigated by the authorities. Of those four cases that were investigated, only one resulted in a conviction. That one case involved a 23-year-old medical student who died after being tortured and beaten with an iron rod and gang-raped by five men on a bus in New Delhi. The international uproar following the gang rape led to an investigation of India’s criminal-justice system, which exposed a shocking culture of indifference toward rape victims.

Following the incident, protestors demanded better security for female commuters, more accountability from law-enforcement and government officials, and harsher punishment for perpetrators. At the heart of the matter was India’s law-enforcement system, which was found to be inadequate in preventing and handling matters of sexual assault. As of 2010, India, with a population of approximately 1.2 billion, maintained 129 police officers per 100,000 people, with the global average at approximately 350 officers. There was also a dearth of female officers available to file reports or respond to rape cases, as female police officers constituted only 5 percent of India’s total police force.

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