Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha, which once ranked among the most peaceful and crime-free states of the country, seems to have become an unsafe place for women. Crimes against members of the fair sex have been taking place in the state with alarming frequency.

Of late newspapers have reported a spate of rape cases, some of the victims being minors. The latest case of alleged rape of a minor girl has been reported from Kuchinda in western Odisha, the accused being none other than her teacher.

Statistics show that as many as 17,528 cases of rape were reported in the state in the last 10 years. While this year alone 937 cases of sexual assault have been registered so far, the number of such cases in 2018 and 2017 was 2,502 and 2,221 respectively.

Most shocking, however, is the high incidence of rape of minor girls. At least 4,749 such cases were reported in the state between 2014 and 2017. The number of gang-rapes, too, was quite high during this period with as many as 385 cases registered in different police stations.

These are disturbing statistics indicating a downward plunge in the law and order situation. What makes women more vulnerable to such crimes is the low conviction rate, a result of sloppy investigation in most cases. The criminals get emboldened when they go scot free.

The only positive development on this front has been that the victims, who earlier used to shy away from reporting their trauma for the fear of social stigma, are now coming into open and approaching the police for justice. This is an important factor contributing to the rise in registered cases of crime against women, especially rapes.

Theoretically speaking violence against women (VAW) is as old as the history of mankind. The United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Elimination of VAW (1993) states that “VAW is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that VAW is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”

Among the factors blamed for growing crime against women, the most widely discussed is the alleged inefficiency of the law enforcing machinery. However, the typical male dominated structure of our society and rise in psychiatric morbidity contribute equally significantly to such crimes.

What is disturbing is that even harsher legislation has failed to check such crimes which is hard to explain in a society heading toward high education, economic and technological development. While the media has played a pivotal role by highlighting the problem and ensuring that increased awareness makes the victims approach police stations with their complaints the need of the hour is that social activists and mental health professionals take up the challenge and present a comprehensive action plan to prevent violence against women in any form.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)