Deterring Crimes Against Women
Amid the public furore over the recent death of a 19-year-old dalit girl from Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, who was allegedly gang-raped and tortured by four men, a person accused of raping and murdering a four-year-old girl in Dimapur in 2015 was convicted for the heinous crime by the principal district and session judge, Dimapur, on October 7. The guilty has been sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment besides being asked to pay compensation to the victim’s family after been convicted under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Justice was delivered five years after the horrific incident took place, a long wait for the family of the victim and the general public. Despite the delay, it was a welcomed verdict as exemplary punishment is necessary to send out a message, loud and clear, to the people that no criminal will go unpunished. Sadly, crimes against women continue unabated despite the government of India introducing stricter laws through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018, besides strengthening the provisions of Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Evidence Act and POCSO. The government has also approved a scheme to set up 1023 fast track special courts for expeditious disposal of cases of rape and POSCO Act, but justice continues to be delayed and crimes against children and women keep increasing. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women were registered in India during 2019, a 7.3% increase over 2018, and rape cases were 32,033.
The NCRB data also revealed that Nagaland recorded only eight rape cases in 2019, which is the lowest among the north-eastern states. However, activists argue that there could be many unaccounted rape cases in the state as many victims choose not to make such cases public either due to lack of faith in India’s judicial system or the social stigma associated with it. Several rape cases have already been reported in the state this year, including the alleged rape of a minor domestic helper by a 43-year-old man in Dimapur which surfaced in the month of August. The accused in this particular case was arrested and a case registered under relevant sections of the IPC and POSCO Act but there are also several instances where such crimes are swept under the carpet even by the family of the victim or due to outside pressure, while many culprits go scot-free in no time, which is not only an injustice to the victims but also a danger to society as a whole because sick-minded people can repeat such crimes. Naga ways of delivering justice to rape victims through the customary law, such as public shaming of the culprits or imposing monetary and material fines is also a mockery of human rights besides undermining women’s rights and dignity. Such ways of dealing with serious crimes like rape is one of the reasons why women hesitate to expose criminals and painfully bear the trauma all their lives – silently. Crime has no face and the guilty should be punished stringently according to the law of the land. We need a stronger deterrent system to stop crimes against women.