India and its lawmakers continue to fail victims of abuse. Women are subjected to violence in the private sphere, public sphere, and the legal sphere -- if they make it that far.
Gender-based violence can take the form of sexual, psychological, and physical abuse; honour killings, sex trafficking, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation.
Women face many barriers in accessing and obtaining justice in physical and sexual abuse cases include societal and family pressures to keep silent, discriminatory police and judicial processes, lack of financial means, and low conviction rates. For many women, their own home is not a safe place. A national family health survey found that between 2015-2016, 33 percent of women had experienced domestic violence including physical, sexual, or emotional. 32 percent of all crimes against women recorded by the police in 2018 were "Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives.” In total, that year, police registered 103, 272 of those cases. Women are subjected to violence both in and outside their homes. New Delhi is the rape capital of the world. Approximately 90 sexual assaults occur per day in India.
In Haryana state, rape cases involving Dalit women and girls, saw only 10 percent of 40 cases end with convictions. In 60 percent of cases, survivors and their families were pressured to settle outside of court.
The horrific 2012 Delhi Gang Rape case sparked protests across the country and caught international attention. 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey, also known as Nirbhaya, was fatally attacked, sexually assaulted, and brutally mutilated by a group of men on a moving bus in a South Delhi neighbourhood. Despite nation-wide protests that have occurred over the years and the introduction of stricter anti-rape laws in 2012, women, especially Dalit women -- who are already more vulnerable to sexual violence, face many challenges obtaining justice.
The report, Justice Denied: Sexual Violence & Intersectional Discrimination, released by Equality Now and Swabhiman Society in 2020 showed that men from dominant castes often target women from the Dalit community and reinforce caste and gender hierarchies. The report found that in Haryana state, rape cases involving Dalit women and girls, saw only 10 percent of 40 cases end with convictions. In 60 percent of cases, survivors and their families were pressured to settle outside of court.
India’s conviction rates are discouraging. Instead of enforcing strict laws in sexual abuse cases, which would empower others to seek justice and change the societal acceptance of gender-based violence, India’s legal system seems to be taking steps backwards.
Recently, Justice Pushpa V Ganediwala’s rulings have made multiple headlines. One including a case where Ganediwala acquitted an accused rapist, stating that it is “highly impossible for a single man to gag the victim and remove her and his clothes at the same time without any scuffle.”
In 2019, BBC News reported on India’s shameful record in the sexual abuse of children. In 2017, “there were 10,221 rapes of children recorded in India. Crimes against children in the country have been steadily rising in recent years.”
BBC News added that the majority of these crimes are committed by people known to the victims such as relatives or neighbours. Despite laws such as The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), the justice system has failed to protect young girls. Ganediwala’s rulings are not outliers, instead, they show how India silences victims and protects abusers.
The disregard for female life is apparent through the inherent discrimination seen between males and females. Due to the preference of having sons over daughters, heinous practices of femicide and infanticide are still happening in India today. The Times of India predicts that 6.8 million females will be missing by 2030.