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Bengal tops list of crime against women

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By ANANYA SENGUPTA
  • Published 3.07.12
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New Delhi, July 2: This is one ascent to the top Bengal could have done without.

The National Crime Records Bureau has put the state at the top of the list of crimes against women. According to the bureau’s latest report — for 2011 — Bengal accounted for nearly 12.7 per cent of the total number of crimes against women registered in India.

Of them, 2,363 were cases of rape.

The report has come at a time the Park Street assault in February — where a single mother was raped in a moving car late at night in the heart of Calcutta and then dumped on the road — is still fresh in the city’s collective memory. Most of the accused have since been arrested.

Last month, another woman was raped in a “shuttle” car by the driver, who was later picked up by police.

While the state accounted for nearly 10 per cent of the total number of rapes last year — second only to Madhya Pradesh (14 per cent) — what should be worrying is that women aren’t even better off at home.

The state has the highest number of cases of spousal violence and ranks fifth in cases of dowry-related deaths. Of the 19,772 cases of cruelty registered against husbands, Calcutta accounted for 557, while dowry-related cases claimed 510 women.

Women’s activists, however, said most victims of domestic abuse were loath to come forward and file cases against their husbands, so the actual figures could be much higher.

For Bengal, the fall — or the rise to the dubious top position — has been steady. In 2006, it ranked sixth in crimes against women; rose to No. 3 in 2007, remained third in 2008; climbed to second spot in 2009 where it stayed in 2010, before rising to No. 1 last year ahead of Andhra Pradesh (12.4%), Uttar Pradesh (9.9%), Rajasthan (8.7%) and Madhya Pradesh (7.3%).

The signs were ominous. A recent report by Maitree, an NGO, had noted that the state recorded the “second highest number of rape cases in the country and had the lowest conviction rate”.

A single piece of statistic could be a telling pointer. Between 2006 and 2010, incidents of rape across the country increased by 15 per cent. In Bengal, the increase was 34 per cent.

According to the recent study by Maitree, girls from the age of 7 to women of 72 were raped in Bengal and in 44 per cent of cases of gang rape, 39 per cent of the victims were minor girls and 17 per cent were mentally/physically challenged.

Of the total number of rapes, 39 per cent of the violators were known to their victims.

A three-member panel of the National Commission for Women had investigated the reasons behind the rising cases of crimes against women last month. In its report, the commission took exception to transfers of officers investigating rape cases besides calling for a “neutral” probe and financial and other assistance to the victims.

“The women who have been targets of attack should be offered financial compensation under provisions of the law…. If required, special assistance of psychologists and social workers should be provided,” the NCW report said.

Bengal women’s commission’s chairperson Sunanda Goswami said it was “wrong” to say that crime against women in the state had gone up. “What you need to see is the fact that more and more women are coming to the forefront and reporting cases of violence against them. This is the credit of activists and even the media that women now have the courage to come out in the open about abuse.”