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275 cases of rape in custody registered from 2017-22, UP tops list: NCRB data

Activist Pallabi Ghosh expressed frustration over the difficulty in lodging complaints for custodial violence unless survivors name perpetrators, highlighting a systemic barrier to seeking justice. "Only if you convict a police officer for custodial rape, we can hope for justice," she added.

Raju Kumar Edited By: Raju Kumar @rajudelhi123 New Delhi Published on: February 25, 2024 13:59 IST
Representational pic
Image Source : X Representational pic

The data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed more than 270 cases of rape in custody were registered from 2017 to till 2022. The women rights activists attributed such instances to lack of sensitisation and accountability within law enforcement systems.

There has been a gradual decrease in such cases over the years. In 2022, 24 cases were registered, down from 26 in 2021, 29 in 2020, 47 in 2019, 60 in 2018 and 89 in 2017, the data highlighted.

Cases of custodial rape are registered under Indian Penal Code section 376 (2). It pertains to the offense of rape committed by a police officer, jailer, or any other person who has the lawful custody of a woman.

This section specifically deals with cases where the perpetrator takes advantage of their position of authority or custody to commit the crime of rape against a woman.

Highest number of custodial rape in UP

Uttar Pradesh accounts for the highest number of cases at 92 of the 275 cases of custodial rape registered since 2017, followed by Madhya Pradesh at 43 cases.

Population Foundation of India, executive director, Poonam Muttreja said, "Custodial settings provide unique opportunities for abuse, with state agents often using their power to force or coerce sexual access." 

"There are instances where women taken into custody for their protection or due to their vulnerable status, such as victims of trafficking or domestic violence, are subjected to sexual violence, reflecting a misuse of power under the guise of state protection," she said.

Muttreja highlighted that there is a complex interplay of factors contributing to custodial rape, including patriarchal social norms, inadequate gender-sensitivity training for law enforcement and stigma surrounding victims.

She stressed on the urgent need for victim-centric approach, strengthened legal frameworks, and institutional reforms to address the root causes and consequences of custodial rape effectively.

"The reported cases of custodial rape are often a manifestation of power imbalances and a lack of accountability within our law enforcement systems," Muttreja said.

She said such rape causes include patriarchal social norms, abuse of power by authorities, lack of gender-sensitivity training for police and societal stigma attached to victims. These elements contribute to an environment where such heinous crimes can occur and, in many cases, go unreported or unaddressed," she said.

Muttreja said that to address the root causes and consequences of custodial rape effectively, the government must take a multi-faceted approach.

"This should include legal reform, better training for law enforcement, social and behaviour change communication to change social norms and stronger mechanisms for accountability. Additionally, fostering partnerships with NGOs, civil society and community groups can help in creating a more inclusive and informed response to this grave situation," she said.

Reflecting on her experiences as a Nguvu Change Leader from women's leadership organisation Nguvu collective undertaking rescue operations, Pallabi Ghosh shared troubling accounts of survivors alleging rape by police officers.

Ghosh highlighted that "the pervasive culture of impunity and victim-blaming within law enforcement is hindering survivors from seeking justice".

"Custodial rape is a very common scenario in police stations. The way the junior police officers, even lady constables talk to survivors, show that they have zero empathy for them," she said.

She emphasised the critical need for sensitisation and awareness among police personnel, coupled with legal mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable.

(With PTI inputs)

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