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Spotlight on safety of women

Police could do little to prevent crimes against women, feels Prashant Pandey

An analysis of the rape incidents in Delhi presented at the Police Commissioner's annual press conference on Friday sought to establish that as far as safety of women in general was concerned the situation was not all that alarming. Interestingly, pockets where women were found to be most vulnerable were not the ones where the media usually focuses its attention.

According to the analysis, about 20 per cent of the rape cases in the Capital were reported only from four particular areas: Sultanpuri, Uttam Nagar, Dabri and Nand Nagri. The Sultanpuri police station alone accounted for 63 cases during the year just gone by. Another 20 per cent were reported from Samaipur Badli, Mongolpuri, Najafgarh, Nangloi, Bhajanpura, Rajouri Garden and Seemapuri. Moreover, a good number of the 642 cases registered in 2005 were elopement cases in which a rape charge was slapped on the men when they returned with the girl a few days after escaping.

On the other hand, no incidents of rape were reported from the Naraina, Kotwali, Maurice Nagar, Farash Bazar, Tughlaq Road, Chanakyapuri, Kamla Market, Jama Masjid, Civil Lines and Roop Nagar police stations. In fact, only three districts -- North-West, West and North-East Delhi -- registered an increase in the number of rape incidents, while in the other six there was a decline.

Further, only in 2.5 per cent of cases the accused were strangers. This, the police said, was also a gradual decline since 1998 when strangers were involved in about 18 per cent of such incidents. Ninety-eight per cent of the overall rape cases have been worked out.

Going by the statistics, therefore, it can be said that women are most affected in communities from the lower socio-economic strata. Even the accused in these cases were mostly the school dropouts, the unemployed and the illiterate.

But whenever safety of women in the Capital is discussed as an issue, some of the incidents of the past two or three years have virtually become flag-markings. These include the gang-rape of a college student in the Delhi University area, the Maulana Azad rape case, the Siri Fort case, the Shanti Mukund Hospital rape case and, this year, the Dhaula Kuan gang-rape, Mayapuri gangrape and Safdarjung Hospital rape case.

These were cases in which the culprits were strangers and the victims mostly from the middle class. Of course, the manner in which all these incidents unfolded was indeed shocking and some of them have remained unsolved till date. For his part, Police Commissioner K.K. Paul on Friday stoically replied that while many cases have been solved, some do remain unsolved.

What the analysis does not take into account, however, is the fact that many incidents go unreported. The trend is particularly strong in the middle and upper strata due to various social pressures and norms. On the other hand, people living in slum clusters -- places from where the maximum number of cases were reported -- have little privacy and incidents come to light more easily. But with the comprehensive analysis of the profile of the victims, the accused and the areas where such incidents occurred -- coupled with the fact that a large number of such cases go unreported -- the police have clearly established that it could do little in terms of prevention.

In fact, the analysis also brings out something that is not readily accepted in the public domain: that the women are probably more vulnerable in their own home than outside.

Yet the police have taken up initiatives under various programmes, like "Parivartan", to sensitise people about the safety of their womenfolk. It should definitely be an example for those concerned with issues of crimes against women to take the cue and make focused efforts to reduce the vulnerability of women.

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