Rape Cases in India: The Curious Case of Under-Reporting Crimes Against Women

Factly analyses under-reporting of crimes against women in India using official crime data.

Rape Cases in India: The Curious Case of Under-Reporting Crimes Against Women
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Logic dictates that crimes committed be reported so that the perpetrator can be taken to task and the victim is guaranteed justice. But the widely accepted notion in the case of Crimes against women is that of under reporting such crimes for varied reasons. Though under reporting has been oft spoken about, there has been no conclusive evidence to prove it.

Crime Rate of a place is an important social indicator reflecting the prevalent socio-economic condition and the functioning of criminal justice machinery in that area. Hence if an area has a high crime rate, it is safe for us to assume that all sections of people are at a higher risk of being subjected to a crime and in fact the vulnerable lot like women and children stand a higher risk. It also means that crime rate be proportional against all sets of people including women. Hence states with a high crime rate should naturally have a higher incidence of women crimes and states with lower crime rate should have lower incidence of women crimes. Any extreme deviation from this in terms of lower crimes against women could mean potential under reporting. A state with a high Crime rate but with an unusually low incidence of crimes against women indicates the fear/stigma associated with reporting crimes against women.

For this analysis, we compared data of all crimes registered under the IPC (Indian Penal Code), Special and local laws with all the crimes against women (under IPC and other laws) to look for any such patterns and aberrations. The data is for the year 2013, the year after the much talked about the Delhi rape incident. The population is from the 2011 census.

The Parameters

Crimes against Women per Lakh Women Population (WCL): Crimes against Women need to be understood as crimes that are specifically the burden of women in our society like Rapes, Dowry related Deaths, Sati etc. Crimes against Women under IPC laws, Special and Local laws of states have been summed up and calculated per 1 lakh women population of a state to arrive at this figure. This is synonymous with women crime rate.

Other Crimes per Lakh total Population (OCPL) : Crimes here correspond to all the other crimes under IPC laws, Special and Local Laws of states other than Crimes committed against women. All these crimes have been summed up and calculated per 1 lakh population of a state to arrive at this figure. This parameter is synonymous with Crime rate for the sake of brevity.

Other Crimes per Women Crimes (CPW): This is a ratio of OCPL to WCL. This could be understood as the number of other crimes registered for every one women crime registered.

The National Scenario

  • For every one lakh total population 523 crimes (other than women crimes) were registered.
  • For every one lakh women population, 52 women crimes were registered.
  • That translates to one women crime per lakh women population being reported for 10 other crimes per lakh total population. In other words, national CPW stands at 10.

 What about States?

States have been arranged in increasing order of their CPW.  States with very high CPW and very low CPW have been discussed

States with high CPW

2Tamil Nadu47
3Uttar Pradesh31

The above 6 states have abnormally high CPW ratios, which mean that the number of other crimes reported is much higher than the number crimes on women reported in these states. The ratio of these states ranges from 20 to 51, in other words from twice the national average to 5 times the national average.

Their CPWs are so high that, exclusion of these 6 states brings the national average from 10 to 5.  In other words, the average of the rest of the 29 states/UTs is 5, but when these 6 states are included it jumps to 10.

Topping the list is Uttarakhand which has a general crime rate more than three times the national averageand an accompanying women crime rate which is well below the national average. In Uttarakhand, for every 51 other crimes reported only one women crime is reported.

Of the six states in this category, 4 of the states, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Puducherry have women crime rates well below the national average. And except for Puducherry, their corresponding crime rates are well above the national average, more than twice the national average. Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh show extreme deviation from the national average. Their overall CPW is more than 3 times the national average. This deviation can only point to severe reporting of crimes against women.

Even in the case of Chhattisgarh the general crime rate is twice the national average but the women crime rate is almost equal to the national average hinting at possible under reporting of women crimes.

Puducherry though present in the top 6 states presents a totally different picture. It has a very low OCPL that is correlating with very low WCL. Puducherry could possibly be an example to our assumption that when under reporting is minimal, WCL and OCPL correlate with each other.

Kerala has the second highest OCPL of 1713 after Uttarakhand and this does not come as a surprise since it has been long known that reporting of crimes in Kerala has been on the higher side and better than the other states in the country. But this high OCPL not correlating with a proportionately high WCL (WCL is higher than the national average only marginally).

States with low CPW

4Arunachal Pradesh4
5Himachal Pradesh4
9Daman & Diu4
10Andhra Pradesh3
11Jammu & Kashmir3
15West Bengal2
16Delhi UT2

17 of the 35 States/UTs have a CPW lesser than half the national average. Chandigarh, Assam and Delhi have a very high WCL, more than double the national average. The women crime rate in Delhi is thrice the national average.

Haryana is known for its low sex ratio and the social institutions that like to maintain the patriarchal societal norms. But a low CPW does not correlate with this understanding.

Women crime rate in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir is higher than the national average. But the crime rate is almost half the national average contributing to a low CPW. The low crime rate in states like West Bengal & Assam makes us wonder about the state of reporting of general crimes itself, let alone women crimes. Tripura reports almost equal number of other crimes and women crimes.

What does it mean?

States with high CPW are enough evidence to the under reporting of crimes against women.  Unlike the states with high CPW, states with low CPW or the states which reported more crimes against women in proportion to other crimes have shown mixed results. Low CPW states showed a trend of low crime rate correlating with low women crime rate  (Eg: Sikkim, Daman&Diu) and in some cases a relatively high crime rate (not necessarily above the national average) correlating with high women crime rate (Eg:Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi). If this trend is to be taken as the general norm, then it can be strongly said that the 6 states with very high CPW are severely under reporting crimes against women.

The findings of Kerala are intriguing. Though Kerala has a reported more than thrice the national average of crimes, crimes against women is only marginally higher than the national average and not in proportion with the rate of other crimes. Is the state with the highest literacy rate and highest sex ratio in the country showing a tendency of potential under reporting of crimes against women? Or does Kerala have fewer cases of crimes against women in reality? The answer unfortunately does not lie in these numbers.

Connecting the Dots

In part 3 of our series on rape cases, the assumption with which we worked was that low sex ratio and low literacy rate contribute to under reporting of crimes against women & relatively higher crimes against women. High sex ratio and high literacy rate lead to better reporting of Rape Cases. This assumption was proven true in the case of UP, it had low sex ratio and low literacy rate which led to a low number of rapes being reported and stood a strong case for under reporting of crimes. The results of this analysis also corroborate that finding. Both the previous analysis and this one establish that Uttar Pradesh might be highly under reporting crimes against Women.

In the earlier analysis, Uttarakhand ,Tamil Nadu and Puducherry also showed signs of reporting less number of Rape cases despite good literacy rate and Sex Ratio. The findings from this study that show lesser number of women Crimes were reported in proportion to other crimes in these states. Both these findings complement each other and might be hinting at possible under reporting of crimes against women even in these states.

What could be the causes for under reporting?

Social Stigma attached with crimes against women could be a major cause. Coupled with this, the male dominated patriarchal society tries to downplay crimes against women and not letting women take their own decisions. This leaves them at the mercy of their families and even community Panchayats that do not encourage reporting crimes.

Lack of faith in the Criminal justice machinery also could be a reason. Even educated women from urban areas sometimes shy away from reporting crimes due to our snail paced judicial process. Inability of judiciary to make progress in disposing of Rape cases even after the setting up of fast track courts further strengthens this belief. In the absence of an effective deterrent mechanism, perpetrators are further emboldened to commit crimes and also threaten the victims from reporting the crimes.

NCRB’s procedure of categorizing crimes could also be a reason for under reporting. In the case of Rapes that result in death, the principal offence is taken to be murder and these Rapes are compiled as murders. This procedure of compiling data also adds to the under reporting of rapes, thought this might be small in number.

What could be done?

The dialogue about Rapes that began post the Nirbhaya incident contributed heavily to the increased reporting in 2013. Sustaining this dialogue, conducting awareness sessions will definitely help and encourage them to report crimes in the short run.

Judiciary cannot afford to be ineffective anymore. The criminal justice system has to work more effectively if we are to set a strong deterrent.

Featured Image Source: Nilroy (Nilanjana Roy) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons



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