Stringent laws alone cannot make India a safe place for women. Diligent investigation, strong prosecution and quick disposal of cases by courts are needed. The latest NCRB report shows that at least seven states have registered a below-10% conviction rate for crimes against women. Odisha, with a 7.4% conviction rate, cuts a sorry figure, though there are some bigger states like West Bengal, Karnataka and Gujarat that fare worse.
But the eastern state has something to worry about. Of the 2,082 victims of rape, at least 62% are girls below 18 years of age. As the incidence of rape continues to show an upward trend, rising sexual assault against minors is a disturbing trend. The state police registered at least 20,098 cases of crime against women in 2017 of which 12,694 cases resulted in a charge sheet. Around 33% cases remain pending with the police. This means the state police has a pendency issue and courts have much more to handle.
The Odisha government has, in the past, made attempts to mount social campaigns to deal with the rising number of sexual assaults against minor girls, which has resulted in increasing registration of cases.
Efforts too have been made to bring more focus to investigation through the creation of a special cell that would monitor probes of such heinous crimes, but the results are yet to be seen. The state police, clearly, has to look elsewhere. Yes, it deals with a large vacancy in its ranks, but what it needs more is a change in the mindset of the force. A recent survey on the status of policing in the country showed that close to 40% of police personnel who were part of the study believed gender-based violence complaints are false and motivated. Interestingly, over 40% admitted to having received gender-sensitisation training in the last two to three years, which apparently is having no impact. It is time to talk about gender sensitisation of the police, which must be accorded priority as it has a huge bearing on tackling crimes against women.