December 30, 2011


Hindustan Times

Rape, molestation rise in the East

For nearly a month, Rashmi Sethi (name changed), 23, was followed by two men on a bike from her Tilak Nagar home to her college in Chembur, in October.

Initially, Sethi ignored the duo. Soon, they began waiting around her building every morning, waiting for her to leave for college at 7.30 am.
When the two college dropouts got hold of Sethi's mobile number began calling her, she panicked. "I got my college friends to trace them and talk to them. I even got in touch with a local non-government organisation (NGO) for help, she said. "I am new to the city and still figuring out the place. This incident has left me shaken," added Sethi, who was so disturbed by the incident that she even contemplated moving to another locality.

Tilak Nagar, a predominantly residential area in the city's east region, is surrounded by slums and at night its streets are poorly lit and the railway station gets deserted. This year, six cases of molestation of women were registered in Tilak Nagar. Earlier this year, Nehru Nagar, another area in the east region, made headlines when three young girls went missing. Their bodies were later found in different parts of Nehru Nagar. Medical examination confirmed that they had been raped. The police are yet to trace the killer(s).

Till November 30, the 18 police stations in the east region had registered 175 cases of crime against women including rape, with 51 cases, molestation, with 113 and and 11 instances of eve teasing

Police and residents attribute the rising crime in the eastern region, which extends from Chunnabhati to Bhandup, to the sudden growth of slums, migrant population and rehabilitation of project affected people. "Most crimes against women in the region happen in slums or areas near slums. Usually, the offenders are known to the victim," said Sanjay Shintre, deputy commissioner of police, Zone 7. Police said that area such as Nehru Nagar, Mankhurd, Deonar, Chembur, Shivaji Nagar in the east region have worst record for crime against women.

However, local residents feel that the police are not doing enough to bring criminals to book, and are not taking cases of harassment seriously. "Chembur Camp and Nehru Nagar are home to commercial sex workers and former bar girls. Men loiter in these areas late at night. Most streets are poorly lit, making the area potentially unsafe, said Raj Kumar Sharma, a Chembur resident and co-coordinator in the organisation, Action for Good Governance and Networking in India (AGNI).
"The police do not take cases of eve teasing and assault seriously. For them, VIP security remains a priority," said Anagha Sarpotdar, a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Deonar."

In an effort to curb the rising crime against women in the east region and increase awareness among residents, more than 14 not-for-profit organisations in Zone 6 (Chembur, Govandi, Nehru Nagar, Tilak Nagar, Mankhurd, Trombay, RCF and Chunnabhati) have come together to form the Forum for Women and Girls against Violent Activities. More than 65 volunteers have set up a vigilante committee to help women who have faced sexual assault or harassment register a first information report (FIR) with the police. Forum members meet police officers once a month, to review cases in the area. It also counsels family members

The forum receives about 20 complaints of eve teasing, sexual assault or rape every month.
"At times, the police do not want to register an FIR to avoid investigations, and thus women are turned away," said Sujata Lavande, member, Committee of Resource Organisation (CORO), one of the NGOs part of the forum. "Victims of sexual assault are often hesitant to talk to the police. We counsel them to report the matter at the earliest," she added.



Sex with girl above 16 does not make it consensual, rules Bombay HC

Merely because the victim of a sexual assault is above 16 does not necessarily imply a consensual intercourse, observed the Bombay high court while upholding the conviction of one Namdeo Gavali in a minor’s rape in 2006.

Upholding Gavali’s conviction, Justice RC Chavanobserved: “Since the victim has stated having resisted the act, she was forced into intercourse by the appellant. Even if the minor victim is above 16, it amounts to rape.” According to the prosecution, the victim was studying in Standard VII, but had possibly given up schooling and started going for some other work.

Public prosecutor Rajshree Gadhvi claimed the girl was acquainted with Gavali, as he would visit the village for fixing television dish antennas. On February 17, 2006 evening, when she was returning home from field work, Gavali called her to the river bank where he raped her, alleged the prosecution. But her protesting cries drew the attention of her parents, who were nearby. Police immediately reached the spot and apprehended Gavali.

However, defence advocate Arfan Sait claimed that the victim was meeting Gavali regularly, despite her parents disapproving of it and asking her to stay away from him. Also, while Gavali’s medical report showed him to be under the influence of liquor on the day of the incident, the victim’s report stated that she suffered no injuries as a result of the intercourse allegedly forced upon her.

In fact, the two doctors who examined the victim, apart from deposing before the trial court the absence of any marks indicating the girl having been subjected to rape, also said she was habituated to intercourse.

When Sait contended that the disapproving parents could have falsely implicated Gavali, justice Chavan observed that the fact that she resisted Gavali implied rape. However, the high court opined that the sessions judge should not have awarded a seven-year jail term and reduced his sentence to a five-year term.

As Gavali, who has been behind bars since his arrest in 2006, has already served over five years in jail, the high court ordered his release.

December 29, 2011


Hindustan Times

Western region least safe for women

The city’s western region is dotted with swanky and upscale areas such as Bandra, Khar, Santacruz and Oshiwara. So it comes as a shock that it is also the most unsafe region for women in the city, according to an analysis of figures released by the Mumbai police. On December 18,published a news report highlighting that crimes against women in the city had risen substantially in 2011, as compared to last year.

The report, based on statistics from the police, raised a question mark on Mumbai’s ‘safe city’ tag — a myth that was also busted by findings of the HT-Akshara survey, for which 4,225 women across the city were interviewed. The survey, conducted in November, revealed that 95 % women interviewed had been sexually harassed or assaulted. 99% considered sexual harassment to be the foremost personal safety risk in public spaces.

Going a step further, we analysed statistics provided by the police, to see which regions were the least safe for women. According to the results, till November 30, police had registered 47 cases of rape (under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code), 145 cases of molestation (Section 354) and 66 cases of eve teasing or street sexual violence (Section 509) in the western region – which tops the list.

The city is divided into five regions — north, south, east, west and central – by the police. These five regions are further divided into 13 police zones.
The western region comprises 21 police stations, including Amboli, where two youngsters — Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes — were murdered when they objected to some men harassing their women friends.

The northern region, which includes Goregaon, Malad Kandivli, Borivli, Dahisar and the other areas, had the second highest number of cases regarding crime against women. The 15 police stations in the region recorded 43 cases of rape, 114 of molestation and 33 of street sexual violence, till November 30.

In the same time period, the eastern region recorded a total 175 cases of crime against women while the figure in the central region stood at 149.

The south region, which includes Colaba, Cuffe Parade and Malabar Hill, emerged as the least unsafe, with 30 cases of rape, 45 cases of molestation, and 17 relating to street sexual violence being registered.

Since 2010, there has been a 17.54% rise in the number of rape cases, 10% rise in molestation cases and 12% rise in eve teasing cases registered across the city.
Compared to 2010,the sharpest rise in rape cases, was recorded in the eastern region (37.83%). The northern region recorded the highest rise (83%) in the number of molestation cases along with a maximum rise (60%) in eve teasing cases.


Hindustan Times

Molestation, harassment going North

September 19 is etched in Kirti Sharma’s (name changed) memory. The 23-year-old management graduate was trying to find an autorickshaw near her house in Bangur Nagar, to go to Malad railway station, when an unidentified man on a motorcycle attacked her. “I was walking towards the Link Road when suddenly, I felt a pat on my back. I turned around thinking it was a friend, but a biker went past me. Then, I felt a stinging sensation on my back. When I touched my back, I realised I was bleeding, he had slashed my back with a knife,” said Sharma.

Sharma had to get 17 stitches on her back. She went to the Bangur Nagar police station where police recorded her statement, but she hasn’t heard from them since then.

Bangur Nagar, a predominantly residential area, is a part of the city’s north region, which stretches from Goregaon to Dahisar. Bangur Nagar, with 10 cases of molestation of women registered this year, reflects the same trend that much of the north zone has seen – an exponential rise in crimes against women.

This year, the north region recorded the second highest number of crime against women (till December 25) in the city, with a total of 203 (including rape, eve teasing and molestation. The highest was the western region, with 258. The 15 police stations in the north zone registered 44 rape cases, 125 molestation cases, and 34 cases of eve teasing.

What sets this region apart, however, is that it also recorded the highest rise in the number of eve teasing cases (88%) in the city’s five regions as well as in the number of molestation cases, which have increased by 76% .

Local police attribute this to presence of a large number of slum areas in the region, which have recorded the highest number of crime cases. Areas such as Borivli, Kandivli, Samata Nagar, Dahisar, among other residential areas are considered safe. Slum-dominated parts such as Malwani, Charkop, Goregaon (West) and Dindoshi are deemed unsafe.

“In Malwani, which is populated with commercial sex workers and former bar dancers, women are vulnerable. Every month, we hear of cases of kidnapping and sexual violence against women. Daughters of sex workers and former bar dancers are also easy prey for men in this area,” said Prabha Desai, chairperson and director of Sanmitra Trust, a non-governmental organisation that works with former bargirls and sex workers.

However, residential areas such as Bangur Nagar and to a smaller extent, IC Colony, Borivli, have also recorded incidents of eve teasing and molestation. “Bangur Nagar has a very old layout with several lanes and by-lanes which are deserted. Many such lanes are unmonitored,” said Sameer Desai, a local corporator.

Similarly, IC Colony remains largely deserted in the afternoon, attracting anti-social elements. “We have heard of eve teasing incidents near a café in the area. I have also received complaints of girls being harassed near bus stops. These incidents usually happen in the afternoon, when there are not many people around,” said Yvonne D Souza, president, IC Women’s Welfare Association.

Police also said that the north region is densely populated, with a diverse population, making int difficult to maintain law and order. “This region is one of the fastest developing one in the city. There are construction sites, schools, colleges, malls, residential complexes, corporate offices, and slums,” said, Ramrao Pawar, additional commissioner of police, north region.

However, fast-paced development in recent times has increased the activity in the area, making it safer, say some residents. “When I shifted here seven years ago, it was a very quiet area with trees and with not too many people. Now the area has become a real estate hub. I feel its safer with shops and the crowd, even in the night,” said Manali Lele, resident of Borivli, who works as an assistant director in a televison production house.

For instance, Malad’s Mindspace Business Park, which is a hub for call centres, has transformed the area. “When I opened my hotel 1999 near Mindspace there was only a dumping ground. I feel that after Mindspace came up, the area around it has become very safe. Women who work there walk to my restaurant at 11 pm from Mindspace. I also see women standing outside the business park drinking chai from the small vendors or taking a smoke break in the wee hours of the morning,” said Neeraj Jain, a hotelier.

December 22, 2011


Times of India

Even consensual sex with minors to be dubbed abuse?

Waive 16-18 Yr Leniency Norms: House Panel

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has recommended waving off the provision of “age of consent’’ in cases of sexual assault, observing that any sexual act below the age of 18 years should be seen as child abuse. The recommendation is a sharp departure from government’s view that considering social realities, consensual acts by children aged 16-18 years should not be criminalized.

“The committee is of the view that since the age of child is specified as 18 years, the element of consent should be treated as irrelevant up to this age… in consonance with the country’s commitment towards UN convention on the rights of children and the Juvenile Justice Act,” the report by the parliamentary standing committee on HRD, examining the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill 2011, said. It was tabled in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

The women and child development ministry and the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights argued that there was no contradiction in the definition of child (below 18 years) and age of consent (16 years) as the age of consent was kept in consonance with IPC Sections 375 & 377.

The committee, headed by Congress MP Oscar Fernandes, said it is strongly felt that protection of children from sexual offences had to be seen from a wider perspective, and confining it to confirmation of a sexual offence by levying of punishment through special courts was “simply ignoring” the real welfare of the child.

The bill defines any person below the age of 18 years as ‘child’ and seeks to penalize any person who commits offences such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, penetrative sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault. It also recommended strong protective and preventive measures in the bill to the extent possible and if need arises, in the rules and guidelines to be made to prevent instances of sexual offences against children. “Specific provisions/ mechanism for sensitising children, parents, teachers, peers should be prescribed.”

The bill says a person commits sexual harassment if he uses words or shows body parts to achild with sexual intent, shows pornography to a child or threatens to depict a child involved in sexual act through the media. The penalty is imprisonment for up to three years and a fine. The report has recommended waiver of penalty for false complaints.

December 15, 2011


Times of India

With 44 cases,Maha tops incest list

New Delhi: Nearly 290 cases of incest were registered across the country in 2010,with Maharashtra recording the highest of 44.MoS,home affairs,Jitendra Singh told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that of a total of 288 cases,37 took place in Orissa,24 in Rajasthan and 21 each in Delhi,MP and Chhattisgarh.He added that 15 cases were registered in Haryana,14 in Kerala,13 in Assam,11 each in Jharkhand and Uttarakhand,eight in Meghalaya and four each in Gujarat and UP.No case of incest was registered in J&K,Andaman and Nicobar Islands,Chandigarh,Dadra and Nagar Haveli,Daman and Diu,Lakshadweep,Puducherry,AP,Arunachal Pradesh,Manipur,Tamil Nadu and Tripura.AGENCIES

Times of India

Most city rapes occur in SoBo

Mumbai: More rapes occur in south Mumbai than anywhere else in the city.

This has been revealed by data obtained by NGO Praja Foundation through RTI Act queries on crime statistics for the last three years.
South Mumbai recorded 40 of the overall 180 rape cases in 2010-11, the highest in the city. Also, the number of rape cases rose by 42%—28 in 2009-10 to 40 in 2010-11. There were 33 rapes in 2008-09. The region, though, had the second lowest number of molestation cases—12—among all zones in 2010-11, a sharp fall from 34 instances in 2009-10.

A total of 193 cases of rape were registered in 2008-09 across all regions of Mumbai. In 2009-10, the figure dropped to 171. However, it went up again to 180 in 2010-11. Over a three-year period, it indicated a 7% drop. On the other hand, molestation cases saw a 47% rise in this period. The number of molestation cases increased from 105 in 2008-09 to 198 in 2009-10, before falling marginally to 154 in 2010-11.

Not enough cops to ensure safety?

Crimes Against Women Increase, Staff Crunch Hits Control Rooms

Increasing incidents of crime against women in Mumbai has raised doubts over its ‘safe city’ tag. The situation is aggravated by the acute staff shortage in police control rooms, which delays reaction time to an incident .

Data obtained by NGO Praja Foundation through RTI queries shows that south Mumbai recorded the highest number of rape cases (40) in 2010-11, up from 28 cases in 2009-10.

The figures also indicated that north-west Mumbai, covering Jogeshwari, Dindoshi, Goregaon, Versova and Andheri, was one of the most unsafe areas. While rape cases declined across the city, north-west Mumbai was one of the only two regions that saw a sharp rise (30%) in cases registered over the past three years. In the same time period, molestation cases more than doubled from 31 in 2008-09 to 65 in 2010-11.
On the situation in south Mumbai, additional commissioner of police (south region) Naval Bajaj argues that the numbers don’t necessarily indicate that the area is more unsafe for women or that there is a breakdown of law and order. “I am confident that if you ask for a breakdown of this data, almost 70% of the cases will come from D B Marg or V P Road police stations. These two police stations regularly crack down on local prostitution rings and brothels and we book the pimps and brothel owners for rape. So, this is more of a technical definition and indicates vigilant policing,” he explains.

He adds that an increase in the number of registered cases may also indicate that women have greater faith in the policing system now and are more willing to come forward and lodge complaints.

The study also highlighted the acute shortage of staff in the police control rooms, with almost half of the 272 sanctioned posts, or around 49%, yet to be filled. As in the case of the Amboli murders, when the two victims’ friends were trying to get through to the police control room for 20 minutes before they could finally call for help, these vacancies may sometimes result in an overload on the current staff and ultimately lead to a decrease in safety on the streets.