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Updated December 16th, 2023 at 15:34 IST

Nirbhaya case: Are women safe in India 11 years after the gang-rape incident? OPINION

December 16 marks 11 years of the heart-rending Nirbhaya gang-rape case in Delhi, which caused a revolution. But have things changed for women in the country?

Shweta Parande
Nirbhaya rape case anniversary
Nirbhaya anniversary: Are women safe in India 11 years after the gang-rape incident? | Image:Shutterstock
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The Nirbhaya gang-rape case shook the nation 11 years ago, when on the night of December 16, 2012, a woman and her male friend were assaulted in a moving bus by a gang of men in Delhi. The female victim of the gang-rape, nicknamed Nirbhaya for the courage she showed in fighting the attackers, was grievously injured. Nirbhaya succumbed to her injuries on December 29, 2012, and the nation mourned.

The case caused a revolution of sorts, with morchas and protests being held in Delhi and other parts of the country. It also led to more stringent laws for dealing with such cases, and also the setting up of all-women police stations in certain parts of the country.

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But have things really changed for women in the country? 

Sexual assault incidents continue 11 years after Nirbhaya case

Even as we write this, there comes news of a Dalit woman having been gang-raped in a moving bus in Uttar Pradesh. This incident is a chilling reminder of the Nirbhaya incident, which also happened in a moving bus in Munirka, a neighbourhood in south Delhi.

In the last three months, several rape cases have been reported from different parts of the country. The actual figure may be much more. Over the years, before and after the Nirbhaya case, there have been cases of sexual abuse in India – whether reported or unreported.

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The age of the female really doesn’t matter to the perpetrators, with even babies and toddlers not being spared, as well as senior citizens. It is left to the women to protect themselves.

On December 15, 2023, a minor was abducted near her house and gang-raped in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. Around the same time, another six-year-old was raped and murdered in Kochi, Kerala. However, Arjun, the accused was acquitted by the Special Fast Track Court in Kattappana for want of evidence.

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On December 12, a government official's 22-year-old daughter was gang-raped in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. On the same day, a woman was raped in a moving train near Satna in Madhya Pradesh.

On November 6, 2023, a 19-year-old female househelp was gang-raped by five security guards in Ahmedabad. The 41-year-old woman real estate developer who lived in the house was also molested.

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In a case of assault in Belagavi, Karnataka on December 11, 2023, a woman was stripped, paraded on the streets and tied to an electric pole.

Although arrests have been made in most cases, there is no fear in the minds of men committing such acts. Of the six Nirbhaya rapists, one died in custody, while four were hanged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail on March 20, 2022. One accused was released in 2015 after being rehabilitated on account of him being a juvenile. 

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Every now and then we hear of incidents such as the May 2014 Badaun gang-rape and murder of two teenage girls in Katra village. The Kathua rape case also hit headlines when Asifa Banu, an eight-year-old girl from Jammu and Kashmir, was abducted, gang-raped and murdered in January 2018. In the same year, a three-year-old girl was found unconscious in her home in Dwarka, Delhi, and it came to light that she had been raped by a 40-year-old security guard of her building when her parents were away.

DCW Swati Maliwal: ‘Nothing has changed’

On the 11th anniversary of the Nirbhaya rape case, Swati Maliwal, Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women said that nothing has changed since the horrendous incident. "I want everyone to come together, both society and the government, to bring about a change," Maliwal said to PTI on the Nirbhaya anniversary. 

VIDEO | 11 years of Nirbhaya case: "I want everyone to come together, both society and the government, to bring about a change," says DCW chairperson @SwatiJaiHind on the issue of women's safety. pic.twitter.com/smRGXHSN0e

— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) December 15, 2023

"We had received several complaints that various bus shelters in Delhi do not have lights and are completely dark. We came for an inspection, and we just went to the bus stop at Ramesh Park and we are now at the Lalita Park bus stop. In both places, it was very dark," Maliwal said to ANI on December 15.

"I appeal to both the central and state governments to make such a system in the country that if anyone harasses any woman, he will not be spared. We need to provide amenities to the police system, make them accountable, set up fast-track courts, and forensic science laboratories should be updated," she said.

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Maliwal had earlier demanded capital punishment for child rapists. It is debatable whether capital punishment should be awarded to all rapists, but it has been a demand from some sections of society. 

Unfortunately, even though four of the Nirbhaya rapists were hanged to death, it does not seem to be a deterrent for men with such a mindset. They are not afraid to commit such a heinous crime for a few moments of sadistic pleasure.

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Nirbhaya’s parents fighting for female victims

The parents of Nirbhaya, father Badrinarayan Singh and mother Asha Singh, said in 2021 that they were still sad but were at peace now, knowing that justice had been delivered to their daughter after a resilient fight. The parents run the Nirbhaya Jyoti Trust, named after their daughter, to help every victim of assault.

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Eleven years after the incident that took her daughter's life, Nirbhaya's mother told PTI, "It has been 11 years and nothing has changed. We got justice with everyone's cooperation but several cases are stuck in the lower court for 10 to 12 years."

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Published December 16th, 2023 at 13:40 IST

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