When It Comes To Rape, Familiarity Breeds Danger
India is seeing an increasing number of cases of rape where the offenders were known to their victims. This is not a phenomenon confined to India but this happened in 98% of the 24,923 rape cases registered in India last year.
Of the 24,470 cases in which offenders were known to the victims, 393 cases involved parents or close family members, up from 267 cases in 2011, which in percentage terms is up 47% in one year.
According to data collected by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) under the Home Ministry, the number of such cases jumped 27.5% in five years, from 19,188 in 2007 to 24,470 cases in 2012.
Incidentally, in the USA, among victims aged 18 to 29, two-thirds had a prior relationship with the offender, according to the National Institute of Justice. In the UK, around 90% of victims of the most serious sexual offences in the previous year knew the perpetrator compared with less than half for other sexual offences, according to a study by Home Affairs and Ministry of Justice. In South Africa, 35% of the offenders were known to victims, according to a study by Statistics South Africa.
NCRB broadly classifies offenders known to victims under the following categories: Parents/close family members; relatives; neighbours; and other known persons.
Madhya Pradesh has registered 18,911 cases involving offenders known to victims since 2007. Rajasthan saw a 73% jump in such cases since 2007. Some other states that have a high number of such cases are Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
In 2012, of the 24,470 cases in which offenders were known to victims, 393 cases involved parents or close family members, up from 267 cases in 2011, an increase of 47% in one year.
The state-wise data breakup is only to show the geographic distribution of cases. It’s likely that higher numbers only mean that the victims feel more comfortable with their local justice system. We will come to that later.
Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh had the largest number of cases where the offenders were known to victims with 3,425 cases, and a majority of these cases involved offenders who were neighbours of the victims.
In 2012, Mizoram reported 19 cases of rape per 100,000 women where offenders were known to the victims, which is the highest in the country.
Other states with high number of cases per 100,000 women are Tripura with 13 cases, Sikkim with 12 cases, Assam with 11 cases and Madhya Pradesh with 10 cases. The National Capital Delhi is also in the top ten with 9 cases per 100,000 women where victims knew their offenders.
All over the country, in 2012, 4 cases were registered per 100,000 women where victims knew their offenders.
Category-Wise Cases of Offenders’ Relationship to Victims
In 2012, 1,978 cases of rape were registered where the offenders were parents/close family/relatives of the victims. Here again, Madhya Pradesh had the highest number of cases though the number declined from 2011 to 2012.
West Bengal with 46 cases, Chhattisgarh with 81 cases and Assam with 29 cases have shown a marked decline in cases under this category since 2007 while Maharashtra (230 cases in 2012) and Rajasthan (218 cases in 2012) showed a marked increase. In Maharashtra, the number of cases of this kind increased 47% from 140 cases in 2011 to 230 cases in 2012.
Cases Involving Neighbours
A total of 8,484 cases where the offenders were neighbours of the victims were registered in 2012, an increase of 8% from the number of cases registered in 2011.
Madhya Pradesh, again, had the highest number of registered cases (1,779) of this kind in 2012. MP has registered 8,781 cases of this kind since 2007. While this is a decline from the 2011 numbers, the same cannot be said for West Bengal where the number of registered cases almost doubled (88% increase).
Assam, the only North East state in the table below, is showing a decreasing trend as well. In 2011, 418 cases were registered in the state; this has decreased to 268 in 2012.
Cases Involving Other Known Persons
A total of 14,008 cases where offenders were known to the victims but who were not close relatives or neighbours were registered in 2012. This number has increased by 34% since 2007 when the number of such cases was 10,433.
Assam had the highest number of such cases (1,419) in 2012 - an increase of 48% since 2007 (955) and an increase of 17% from 2011. It is interesting to see Assam showing higher numbers in this category than Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh that have significantly larger population. Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala showed declining numbers in 2012.
IndiaSpend spoke to Dr Sunita Krishnan, a women’s right activist and founder of Prajwala, an organisation working for anti-trafficking of women and children. According to her, a majority (more than 75% by her reckoning) of cases of sexual abuse and violence is perpetrated by close relatives- fathers, brothers, uncles, neighbours, friends and so on… and this has always been the case.
Dr Krishnan also pointed to the oft-mentioned proviso – that it’s the reporting of cases that’s rising and not so much the number of rape cases in itself, at least proportionately.
“The increasing numbers of cases is due to increased visibility and reporting but for every one case that is reported, 20 cases are not.”
She also warned against interpreting state-wise data in this case. “If numbers in some states are lesser than others, it does not mean that there are less cases of rape by offenders known to victims; it is merely because the state has not improved their law enforcement agencies and justice system compared to states with higher registered cases.”
Perhaps the increased reporting is helping or will help address the problem better. Equally the awareness of the dangers and where they lie is a good first step.