The Hindu Explains: From disparities between States on diseases to crimes against women

Crimes against women at alarming levels in Bengal

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data on crimes against women, including trafficking in West Bengal, have shown alarming highs.

What happened?

The NCRB report for 2016, which was released on November 30, 2017, recorded 283 incidents and 307 victims under Section 326A (acid attack) and Section 326B (attempt to carry out an acid attack) in the country. Of these, West Bengal recorded 76 incidents of such attacks and about 83 victims, accounting for 26% of all incidents and 27% of victims. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country with almost double the population of West Bengal, recorded 57 incidents and 61 victims.

Why can’t it be controlled?

Despite guidelines from the Supreme Court on regulating the sale of acid, there is little monitoring on the ground in West Bengal. While the guidelines ban over-the-counter sale of acid without identity proof, no restrictions have been imposed in rural and semi-urban areas where most of the attacks take place. The easy availability of the corrosive substance has resulted in high incidence of acid attacks in the State, according to the police.

What about other crimes?

Acid attacks are not the only crime directed at women in Bengal. One of the highest contributors of crime against women are cases registered under Section 498A of the IPC (cruelty by husband or his relatives). During 2016, 1,10,434 cases were registered across the country, of which West Bengal recorded 19,305 cases (over 17% of the total cases in the country).

When it comes to human trafficking, West Bengal is not only the highest contributor to the crime but it alone accounts for 44% of all cases nationally. Of the 8,132 cases of human trafficking reported in 2016, West Bengal accounted for 3,579 cases. In terms of missing children, which is related to human trafficking, the State recorded 8,335 cases of children gone missing in 2016. As the State shares a border with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, it has become a transit route in human trafficking. The distress-ridden tea gardens of north Bengal, the remote islands of Sunderbans and the districts of Malda and Murshidabad with poor human development indicators and high density of population serve as ideal source point for traffickers luring young girls on the pretext of jobs or marriage to other States. Some experts say that the number of cases of human trafficking are high as the police are proactive in registering cases of human trafficking and missing children. One of the aims of the Kanyashree Prakalpa launched by the West Bengal government was to curb trafficking by providing conditional cash transfer to school-going girls but the numbers clarify that a lot more needs to be done.

Who is to blame?

West Bengal has been recording a high crime rate against women over the past several years. In 2016, West Bengal ranked second with 32,513 cases of crime against women, contributing 9.6% to all such crimes in the country. Uttar Pradesh with over 17% of the female population of the country — Bengal has 7.5% — accounted for 14.5% of all crimes against women. But despite the high levels of crimes against women, it has failed to garner adequate attention from the authorities. The State government has not taken note of the numbers, and the Opposition too has not raised the issue.

Statutory bodies such as the West Bengal Women’s Commission and the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights have failed to put any system in place by which crimes against women and child trafficking can be arrested. According to non-governmental organisations working in the field, the commissions need to improve victims’ access to legal services and put in place concrete steps that can act as a safety net for women and children. The overall conviction rate for crime against women in India stands at 18.9 %. For West Bengal, the conviction rate is the lowest in the country at 3.3 %.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2020 12:39:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/crimes-against-women-at-alarming-levels-in-bengal/article21381399.ece

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