11 years of Nirbhaya case | Nothing has changed in past decade, says DCW chief Maliwal

The Delhi Commission for Women chairperson called for certainty and swiftness in punishments and said governments should take such sensitive cases ‘seriously’

December 16, 2023 11:11 am | Updated 04:10 pm IST - New Delhi

Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Swati Maliwal.

Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Swati Maliwal. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Nothing has changed in the past decade and crimes against women in Delhi have only gone up, DCW chief Swati Maliwal said on December 16 on the 11th anniversary of the Nirbhaya incident - a brutal gang-rape and assault case that stirred an outpouring of anger and grief, followed by the passage of several new sexual assault laws in the country.

A 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, who came to be known as "Nirbhaya (the fearless one)", was raped and assaulted by six men inside a bus in south Delhi on December 16, 2012, before being thrown out of the moving vehicle. She died from her injuries on December 29 in Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital, where she was flown by air-ambulance.

"A tragic incident happened with Nirbhaya in 2012 when she was gang-raped. That girl died in agony," Ms. Maliwal told PTI.

"At the time of the incident, people came out onto the streets to seek change. But despite years after that tragedy, we stand at the same place. Crimes against women are increasing day by day. Nothing will change until the criminals are scared that the system would not spare them for such crimes," she added.

The Delhi Commission for Women chairperson called for certainty and swiftness in punishments and said governments should take such sensitive cases "seriously".

"We need certainty and swiftness in punishments and such matters need to be taken seriously by governments. Police strength and (the number of) fast-track courts should be increased. We need a system where justice is assured swiftly and systematically," she said.

"Every December 16, politicians talk big about bringing change but (those are) all in vain," she claimed.

Of the six men accused in the case, Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide in jail, days after the trial began. A juvenile accused was released in 2015 after spending three years in a correctional home.

Also Read | Crime and punishment: On Nirbhaya case convicts’ hanging

The other four - Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) - were convicted. They were hanged in Tihar Jail on March 20, 2020.

"After the Nirbhaya incident, a stringent law was introduced that made some difference. If a policeman doesn't accept a rape victim's complaint, an FIR can be lodged against him too. Through the Delhi Commission for Women, we always ensure that cases of crimes against women are registered," Ms. Maliwal said.

Asked about a recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report that said crimes against women had shot up in Delhi, Ms. Maliwal said there is no fear of punishment in those who commit such atrocities.

Delhi recorded the highest number of crimes against women among the 19 metropolitan cities in India in 2022, according to the latest NCRB report.

"There is no fear of punishment in those who commit such crimes. There are instances where even politicians were seen posing with such criminals. What happened in the sexual harassment case of the women wrestlers of our country? (Outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief) Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is roaming free despite having serious allegations against him," Ms. Maliwal said.

In 2022, crimes against women in Delhi witnessed a 1.25-percent on-year increase to 14,158 cases from 13,982 in 2021, the NCRB data showed.

According to the data, Delhi recorded 1,204 rape cases in 2022. It also reported 129 dowry death cases and 3,909 kidnappings or abductions of women that year.

In 2018, Ms. Maliwal had gone on a hunger strike to demand the death penalty for those convicted of raping minors and setting up of fast-track courts across the country to try sexual assault cases, among others.

The following year, she sat on another hunger strike and also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding a time-bound redress of mercy petitions by rape convicts sentenced to death and an increase in police resources.

The Delhi women's panel chief said the conviction rate in rape and sexual assault cases is very low and added that the commission receives more than 2,000 distress calls every day.

"I think police strength should be increased and they must be held accountable for their negligence. Are there enough CCTV cameras in police stations? What action is taken against the cops for their negligence?" she asked.

She also suggested that schools should add to their curricula topics that teach boys to make women feel safer and respect them.

"Schools should introduce such topics in their curriculum wherein they (boys) are taught how to make women feel safe and how to respect them," Ms. Maliwal said.

"Do the curricula mention what domestic violence is and how to prevent those? If not in schools, who will make the children understand that it is wrong when a man raises his hand on a woman?" she asked.

The Delhi Commission for Women has received more than a lakh cases in the last six years and served notices to the Delhi Police in almost every one, she added.

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