4 October 2020
In this piece, Vasundhara Sirnate and Sajneet Mangat visually describe and map gang rape data that they have recorded for The Polis Project’s Violence Lab between 1 January 2020 and 30 September 2020.
Rape in India is an under-reported, under-recorded and under-prosecuted crime. With the implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Criminal Law (Amendment Act), 2013, there was hope that the new laws – which expanded the definition of rape and extended punishment for more categories of sexual offences against women and children – would result in a decrease in the incidence of rape in India. The Hathras gang rape incident has once again thrust the issue of rape and gang rape centerstage. Despite increased legislation and punishment, rape and gang rape still exist.
Why is this the case? Gang rapes in India are often seen as aberrant criminal behavior. However, doing so misses the argument that such behaviors are embedded in cultural practices where men are rewarded with higher peer status for indulging in violence and sexual violence and penalized for not doing so. Criminal deviance and rampant misogyny alone do not explain the number of gang rapes in India. Individual criminal behavior is not individually produced; it is a product of culture, society, family, income, literacy, identity, power dynamics in society, etc. The big question is how and why are men coming together as a group to perpetrate the worst kinds of crime on women? Why are they grouping together and expressing collective violence on female bodies more in some places than in others?
Any project that aims to further the understanding of why there are gang rapes with horrific levels of violence done to the bodies of children and women needs to look at perpetrator psychology and at granular data. To start with, gang rapes need to be contextualized as part of national and regional patterns and not as aberrant, one-off crimes. To do this effectively data are required. Currently, the only public data on gang rapes in India come from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)’s Crime in India published annually, which records state-wise and selected district/city-wise crimes under all Indian Penal Code categories. Their gang rape data are provided as a total for a whole year and released the following year. In this form, the data do not reveal precise locations the crime occurred in and we cannot infer when during a year a gang rape incident took place. Therefore, while there is a total number of gang rapes available for a state in a particular year, there is no current, relevant, usable information about particular cases and where they are situated. This means that there is paucity of granular data even while there is an abundance of aggregated data.
As part of Violence Lab’s data collection enterprise on collective public violence in India, gang rapes in India for 2020 are being recorded. These cases are sourced from English-language newspapers and digital newspapers. As a work in progress, Violence Lab has decided to release partial mapping of this data to give a sense of what the geographical spread of recorded gang rapes in India is for 2020 and to explore possibilities of further research in this area.
Fig. 1 shows locations where gang rapes took place in India between 1 January 2020 and 30 September 2020. The data reflect information about 158 cases that are recorded.
The interactive version of this map with specific case annotations can be found HERE hosted on a Tableau Server. Please note that the size of the circle marker for every incident reflects the “gang size.” Granular geographic information appears upon zooming in on the interactive map.
According to recently released NCRB data for 2019, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana accounted for most gang rapes in the country. The data gathered by Violence Lab until now follow the same trend for 2020, with the notable addition of Jharkhand. The data also show that fewer cases were seen between March and May 2020. This could possibly be explained as a consequence of the coronavirus lockdown policy where police patrolling for lockdown enforcement was high, or it could reflect that gang rapes weren’t being reported by victims because of nation-wide restrictions on movement of citizens.
Fig. 2: Reported Gang Rape Cases in India, 1 January 2020 – 30 September 2020
In this data 60.1 percent of cases (n=95) involved the gang rape of a minor. The youngest victim in the dataset was 3 years old (deceased), the oldest 75. In some cases, it was also found that the perpetrators were minor boys, the youngest being 11 in a case in Jharkhand.
Fig. 3 shows state-wise cases of gang rape in India.
Fig.3: State-wise Reported Gang Rapes, 1 January 2020 – 30 September 2020.