New Delhi (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Reports of crimes against women in India such as rape, dowry deaths, abduction and molestation increased by 26.7 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, government statistics showed on Monday.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said there were 309,546 crimes against women reported to the police last year against 244,270 in 2012, with the highest number recorded in Andhra Pradesh.
Crimes included rape, kidnapping, sexual harassment, trafficking, molestation and cruelty by husbands and relatives. They also include crimes in which a woman was driven to suicide as a result of demands for a dowry from her husband or in-laws.
“The new government should enforce all laws, policies and programs to address violence against women. The government should also ensure that there is respect for women’s rights to equality, freedom of movement and expression and that there is every effort to quell claims of ‘women’s safety’ as a justification for curtailing such freedoms,” said Meenakshi Ganguly from Human Rights Watch.
The NCRB said the number of rapes in the country rose by 35.2 percent to 33,707 in 2013 - with Delhi reporting 1,441 rapes in 2013 – making it the city with the highest number of rapes and confirming its reputation as India’s “rape capital”.
India’s biggest city and business capital Mumbai, known for being more women-friendly, recorded 391 rapes last year, while IT hub Bangalore registered 80 rapes.
Police attribute the rise in reports to more women coming forward due to greater public awareness following the high profile gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in December 2012.
The case sent shockwaves across much of urban India and led to thousands of people coming out onto the streets to protest over growing violence against women in the largely patriarchal and conservative nation.
It also forced the Indian parliament to enact stiffer penalties for crimes against women, including death for repeat rape offenders, criminalising stalking and making acid attacks and human trafficking specific offences.
Women’s rights groups say the figures are still gross under-estimates of the reality on the ground – women are often too scared to come forward to report rapes or domestic violence for fear their families and communities will shun them.