By Geetika Dang, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
New Delhi, Jun 22, 2018 (IPS) – Rapes of minors surged from 16 per day in 2001 to 46 per day in 2016. As if this was not horrendous enough, their savagery adds to it.
In 2016, 43.3% of the total female rape victims were minors. Around 13% of the minor female victims were of age 11 and below. The deceased victim in the Kathua rape case from a nomadic Muslim community was barely eight years old. Her crumpled body was found in a blood-smeared dress in January 2018. A group of Hindu men lured her into a forest, kidnapped her, drugged her, locked her in a Hindu temple, gang-raped her and then strangled her.
In another depraved and cruel assault, an eight-month-old baby girl was raped in New Delhi in January 2018, by her 28-year-old cousin. As reported, the baby was on life support as her internal organs were damaged during the assault. In yet another case in Hisar’s Uklana town in December 2017, a 6-year old Dalit girl was brutally raped and murdered. The post-mortem revealed that the murderer had inserted a wooden stick in her body. Her body parts were badly brutalized, bore multiple injuries and scratch marks, and blood was spilt all over her body.
In April 2018, a four-month-old baby was raped and murdered in the historic Rajwada area in Madhya Pradesh. The infant’s body was found in the basement area of the heritage Shiv Vilas Palace, with blood smears on the stairs telling a barbaric tale. The ravaged body was carried away in a bundle. Many more gruesome cases could be cited but are omitted as they differ in location but not in the brutality. At the risk of overstating it, the surge in the frequency of rapes of minors has been inextricably linked to their brutality in recent years. Why bestial masculinity has risen in recent years is unclear.
Our analysis with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data and from other sources over 2001-16 yields useful insights into changes in the incidence of rapes of minors (per lakh minors) across different states and over time.
Rapes of minors spiked between 2010-14, dropped sharply in 2015, and then spiked again in 2016. Surprisingly, after enactment of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in 2012, the incidence of rapes of minors surged. It covers crimes such as child rape, sexual assault and harassment and using children for pornography. However, NCRB began collecting data under POCSO in 2014. This may be partly linked to the spike in 2014.
There are some striking variations across the states (including Delhi as a sole union territory because of its infamous characterisation as the ‘rape capital’ of India). In 2001, the top three states (with the lowest incidence of rapes of minors per 1,000,00 minors) were West Bengal (0.03), Jharkhand (0.12) and Arunachal Pradesh (0.19). In 2016, the top two states changed, with Bihar as the best (0.33), followed by Jammu and Kashmir (0.35) and Jharkhand (1.24) slipping from the second to the third best. So not just the states changed but the incidence was much higher among them.
In 2001, the three worst states/union territory were Delhi (4.44), followed by Chattisgarh (4.16) and Madhya Pradesh (3.24). In 2016, the three worst were Delhi (8.32), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (7.97) and Chattisgargh (7.58). Thus, while two out of the three worst states remained unchanged, the incidence of rapes rose.
At the regional level, the central was the worst in 2001 (33.53% of total rapes of minors), followed by a considerably lower share of the northern (19.01), and a slightly lower share of the southern (16.90%). In 2016, the central contributed the largest share (33.62%), followed by the southern (18.41 %), overtaking the northern region (16.10 %).
Using the NCRB and other datasets for the period 2001-16, we conducted an econometric panel analysis of rapes of minors during 2001-16, designed to isolate the contribution of each of the several factors associated with the surge in rapes of minors. Specifically, the panel model allows for individual state heterogeneity The larger the pool of minor girls (<17 years relative to men), the higher is the incidence of rapes of minors (hereafter just rapes). The greater the affluence of a state (measured in terms of state per capita income), the lower is the incidence of rape. The effect, however, is small. The lower the ratio of rural to urban population, the lower is the incidence of rapes, implying higher incidence in the latter. Congress and its coalition- ruled states lowered the rapes while President- ruled states saw a rise, presumably because the latter resulted from a breakdown of law and order. There are two surprising findings. One is that after the enactment of POCSO in 2012, the rapes increased. This is contrary to the spirit and intent of POCSO which was enacted as part of an initiative to make anti-rape laws more stringent. As convictions for rapes of minors are not available for the entire period of our analysis, we have used convictions for rapes as a proxy. This has a positive effect on rapes albeit small. This is not surprising as in 2016, out of 64,138 cases of child rapes for trials in courts, trials were completed only in 6626 cases and 57,454 (89.6%) cases are still pending. Of the cases in which trials were completed, offenders were convicted only in 28.2% of the cases. The problem is not just underreporting of rapes of minors for familiar reasons such as incest and fear of retaliation but also the incompetence and corruption of the police and judicial systems. So the recent legislation of capital punishment for rapists of girls below 12 years is a mere distraction from the imperative of systemic reforms. Worse, the capital punishment could add to the butchery of rapes of minors.
Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is a lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pennsylvania, USA)