Women's safety and big data

The latest crime data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveals a disturbing picture of Assam continuing to register the highest rate of crimes against women for the fourth consecutive year.
Women's safety and big data

The latest crime data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveals a disturbing picture of Assam continuing to register the highest rate of crimes against women for the fourth consecutive year. Apart from busting the myth that women occupy high social status in Assam, the data also speaks volumes about women's safety remaining the least priority for the government and society. The NCRB report titled "Crime in India-2020" reveals that the rate of crime against women in Assam at 154.3 is much higher than the national average of 56.5 despite a fall in the total number of cases registered during last year. The total number of cases of crime against women in the state declined to 26,352 in 2020 from 30,025 in 2019 and 27,687 in 2018 but high pendency of cases for filing charge sheets by police disposal and trial by court sounds caution against any complacency. The poor conviction rate of 3.3 against the national average of 29.8, besides 78,562 cases pending for trial and 27,977 cases pending for investigation at the end of 2020 point towards gaps in the criminal justice delivery in the state as far as a crime against women is concerned. The state also recorded the highest rate of 66.8 in the category of cruelty by husbands or their relatives against the national average of 17 revealing an alarming situation of lack of women's safety at her in law's place in many households and rising incidents of domestic violence. The argument advanced by governments and police officials that high registration of cases is a reflection of women becoming empowered to report crimes committed against them is deceptive as increased reporting has not been proportionally reflected in the investigation of cases and punishment of the perpetrators. The NCRB report also reveals how cyberspace is also becoming increasingly unsafe for women in Assam. The state shares the highest rate of 2.3 with Odisha against the national average of 0.4 in cybercrimes against women that include publishing or transmitting sexually explicit materials, blackmailing, defamation, morphing and fake profile. This calls for a massive awareness drive among women, girl children and their parents about cyber security measures and elementary safety standards by Assam Police in collaboration with the Assam State Women's Commission, Departments of Education, Social Welfare, Women and Child Development and media houses. The vulnerability of girl children to becoming targets of cybercriminals has increased manifold after the online mode of education has become the only mode of formal education during the COVID-19 pandemic situation over the past 17 months. Another disturbing picture revealed by the report is the high prevalence of crime in the state in the category of kidnapping and abduction of women to compel them for marriage. The rate of crime in this category is the highest in the country at 17.2 against the national average of 3.8 has brought to the fore the rising incidents of forced marriage. Voices raised against failure to prevent crime against women and punish the perpetrators are feeble and protests against certain cases often fail to alert society how women and girls have remained vulnerable to various types of crimes including heinous crimes of rape and murder. The NCRB report containing a comprehensive database of crime scenarios and the patterns in a state and the country is not just for use by the government and police to take corrective measures. An objective analysis of the crime data by social scientists, women's commissions, women's rights activists, legal and cyber experts, and other sections of the society can help identification of causes and making pragmatic recommendations for the prevention of crime against women. It will also reflect how concerned society is about the safety of and status of a woman at home, in public space, at her workplace as well as in cyberspace. Reporting of 1658 rape cases including 1006 cases of rape of women in the age group 18 to 30 years presents a frightening picture and a grim reminder to all stakeholders in the criminal justice system to take radical measures to mete out quick and exemplary punishments to rapists and other perpetrators of crime against women. The fact that in 87.9 % rape cases the accused are known to the victims and includes family members, friends, online friends, live-in partners, separate husband, neighbours, employers, and other known persons calls for all stakeholders in society to do serious introspection as to what has led to the situation in which people in whom women trust most have become tormentors. The purpose of NCRB compiling the data related to crime against women will be achieved only when the government and all stakeholders in the society make a scientific analysis of such data to identify the gaps and take effective measures to prevent a recurrence. The NCRB data on crime against women is a wake-up call for the State Government and society.

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