The brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old exactly a year ago had led to massive public outcry with thousands of people pouring out on streets in rage forcing Parliament to enact a new anti-rape law but nothing much has changed when it comes to safety of women in the capital.
Though the governments,both at the Centre and the city,claimed they have initiated a number of measures to improve security of women,experts and activists feel not much success has been achieved to make women feel safe in Delhi.
The Delhi Government had rolled out a slew of initiatives like setting up a helpline (181) for women but its promise of installing GPS system in buses and autos,introduction of special pink autos for women and streamlining the transport system remained on paper.
“I still don’t feel safe while travelling by public transport,auto drivers still refuse to go to certain destinations. I still haven’t seen any PCR patrolling regularly in my area,” said Bhawna Tuteja,a working professional.
According to Delhi police data,a total of 1493 cases of rape were registered in the national capital till November 30 which is more than double in 2012 while molestation cases have registered a five-fold increase to 3,237.
Even the victim’s father rued that even after so much hue and cry,the “change” is missing.
“There were huge protests and even the laws were changed and police have become more active and alert,but have the crimes against women stopped. Every other day cases of rape and sexual harassment are getting reported,where is the change. I don’t see any change…do you?” he said.
Sharing the same views,Suman Rajput said,”What kind of example has been set that the convicts will be sentenced but never hanged. And even if they are punished,it will happen years later. Isn’t it the same as what has been happening in past. Then how can we say that ‘something’ has changed?”
The Centre had brought a legislation in April that provided for life term and even death sentence for rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks,stalking and voyeurism.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013 was brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gangrape,and it was named the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,2013.
The law,passed by Lok Sabha on March 19 and by Rajya Sabha on March 21,has replaced an Ordinance promulgated on February 3.
It amended various sections of the Indian Penal Code,the Code of Criminal Procedure,the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against crimes like rapes,the new law stated that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years,but which may extend to life,meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict’s natural life and with a fine.
It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes.
The law,for the first time,defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail.
In September,death sentence was awarded to the four convicts in the case by a court here which said the “beastly” and “hair-raising” manner in which the crime was committed against the girl falls in the rarest of rare category.
Jyoti Bhardwaj,a law-student said,”The fast track court took more than 8 months to come up with justice in a single case of the gang rape victim while there are innumerable other cases that remain practically unattended.”
“We must remember that the girl was not killed by a group of horrifically misguided individuals,but it was a result of an existing culture of having scant respect for girls and women,” says Vijaylakshi,a Delhi University faculty and convener of Women’s cell.
Dr Ranjana Kumari,Director,Centre for Social Research,believes that the Congress government had to bear the brunt of the unfortunate incidents of rape in the last few years in the recent assembly election.
“The voters had all the reasons to feel cheated by the government. The results are available for everyone to see,” she says.
According to another women activist,Kavita Krishnan,”Giving death penalties would not satisfy those lakhs of women who have to deal with issues of their security and violence against them in their day to day life and find no answers to what the government is doing about them.”
However,a section of women activists also believe that ice has definitely being broken and there are high hopes of improvement of situation in the coming years.
“It has given strength to women at least. They are no longer afraid of coming out and accepting what they are suffering from. This is the situation unlike the past years,”
says Kamla Bhasin,founder member of Jagori,an NGO for women.