The severest phase of lockdown in the country coincided with a drastic fall in crimes against women in Himachal Pradesh, but was followed by an equally sharp rise as restrictions began to be eased, according to a report compiled by the Himachal Pradesh Police.
The month of April, when lockdown restrictions were the most severe, witnessed the least cases of rape, molestation and sexual offences against children in the state this year. Reported cases of rape dropped from 27 in March to 13 in April, before rising to 28 in May.
Similar figures were reported in cases involving the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Molestation cases, too, dropped from 36 in March to 16 in April, but rose back to 46 in May and further to 56 in June.
Beginning early May, several types of shops, establishments and economic activities were allowed to resume under Lockdown 3.0 while the state government extended the curfew relaxation time up to five hours and then seven hours daily.
High rate of crimes against women in HP
According to the report, Himachal Pradesh ranked among the top five states in the country in terms of crime rate (crime per one lakh population) of several offences against women, as per the NCRB’s ‘Crime in India 2018’ published earlier this year. These crimes include abetment to suicide, cyber crimes against women, rape and molestation of minors, murder with rape, domestic violence and kidnapping a minor to compel to marriage.
Analysing rape cases since 2015, the police said that more than 80 per cent of the alleged rapes each year (as much as 96 per cent in 2016) were committed by someone known to the victim.
The report cited some shocking crimes in recent months, which include a distant uncle raping a 2-year-old girl in Balh, a man raping his 75-year-old mother-in-law in Sangrah, and a 23-year-old man committing “unnatural sexual act with a calf” in Sirmaur.
In the total cyber crimes reported, a majority of the victims have been females. In 2019 for instance, 54 of the 73 cyber crimes were reported by women.
Of all the crimes against women in the last 10 years, 29.6 per cent were assaults, followed by rapes (17.50 per cent), cruelty towards women (17.30 per cent) and kidnappings/abductions (16.8 per cent). The districts, which have been leading in the number of crimes against women include Kangra, Mandi, Shimla, Una, Sirmaur and Solan.
Missing females, Juvenile Crime
According to the report, recent years have witnessed a sharp rise in number of untraced missing females, increasing from 32 in 2015 to 225 in 2019 and 163 so far this year. The number of missing males has not seen a corresponding rise. In fact, more untraced males went missing from 2015 to 2017, but the number of missing females has surpassed them since then.
Since 2015, nearly 200 crimes each year have been committed by juveniles. This year, however, the number has dropped to around 50 in the first six months, including 14 cases of rape. The number of juvenile victims has also increased in recent years, from 477 in 2015 to 748 in 2019.
The report added that to address the rising crime, women police stations have been set up in 10 out of 12 districts, community policing schemes initiated, and four anti human trafficking units established. An IR Mahila battalion has also been established in Bassi Bilaspur, among other things.
The police are now aiming to increase the ratio of women police officers in the department from 13 percent to 33 percent, it said.
Meanwhile, in a press statement, Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri expressed concern over the rising incidents of suicides and rapes in the state. He said despite a large number of people losing jobs and livelihoods, essentials such as bus travel, ration and power have been made dearer in the state amidst the pandemic.
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