Crimes against women under the Indian Penal Code are as follows :

       Rape (Sec. 376 IPC)

           Kidnapping and Abduction for different purposes (Sec. 363-373 IPC)

         Homicide for Dowry, Dowry Deaths or their attempts (Sec. 302/304B IPC)  3.    

          Torture/Cruelty - both physical and mental - (Sec.498A IPC)

           Molestation (Sec. 354 IPC)

           Sexual Harassment/Eve-Teasing (Sec. 509 or 294 IPC)

          Importation of girls up to 21 years of age (Sec. 366B IPC)


If we look at the information released by the National Crime Records Bureau for 2002, it would be clear that Torture/Cruelty tends to account for the highest share in total CAW in the state : more than half in 2002 as against less than one-third for all-India ; in the same year; rape accounted for 10 percent of total CAW here as against 11 per cent of  all India total CAW; molestation constituted 11 per cent of the West Bengal total CAW while in all-India CAW this proportion was more than double at 23 per cent. The following two Charts illustrate the relative shares of each of the seven listed categories of CAW in total CAW  : Chart V I with respect to in West Bengal and Chart V II with respect to all India. 

Table  V 1 : Ever-Married women's experience of beatings/mistreatment West Bengal and India : 1998-99

Table V 2 provides crime figures relating to incidence of CAW for the years 2000-2003 and also the rate of CAW per one lakh population in West Bengal and India in 2001, as these rates indicate a more realistic comparative picture of crime. It will be seen that West Bengal is better situated as compared to all-India, with respect to the rates for total  CAW (8.2 per lakh population), as well as individual components of CAW (except dowry death, which is on par with all-India). It will also be  seen in Table V 3 that West Bengal's share of the all-India incidence of rape, dowry death and total CAW has remained below the state's share in the all-India population (roughly 8 per cent ).Surprisingly, however, CAW as proportion of total IPC crimes in the state  (9-11 per cent) has remained higher than the comparable all-India figures (6-8 per cent).


Table V 4  presents state wise figures  for 1998 and 2001 relating to incidence of CAW in 12 selected states ; each state's rate of CAW ; its share in all-India CAW as well as its ranking among 28 states of India in  terms of the last two criteria.


Among all offences perpetrated against women, the most heinous are the crimes of rape and dowry death. "The threat of rape clips the wings of a woman ready to take flight into freedom and achievement. It cripples her mentally and hurts her physically beyond the imagination of anyone. Dowry death, on the other hand, arises out of a mentality that denies the woman unequal status and respect even in supposedly her 'own  house' " [i]. Table V 5 provides statewise figures for these two crimes per one crore  population. Only three or four states have figures that are lower than those for West Bengal. This Table also underscores the fact that the conviction rates for CAW - for example rape - tend to be appreciably lower than those for IPC crimes as a whole. A worrisome trend is the proclivity towards imposition of dowry in communities where it was once conspicuous by its absence. As part of a project on the status of Muslim women in West Bengal, the Women's Studies Research Center of Calcutta University undertook a village  survey  in the district of South 24 Parganas in 1998. Almost all the Muslim families reported dowry transactions in cash or kind or both while elderly women over 70 years of age reported that they had never encountered dowry or 'groom price' in their youth. [ii]. Dowry has also begun to make its appearance among the tribal communities of West Bengal [iii].


Table V 5 shows the rising incidence of sexual assault against women in West bengal districts in the form of rape including gang rape), molestation and eve-teasing, together with the number of persons arrested in connection with these crimes. According to information available for 2003, prevalence of CAW was more pronounced in the districts of North and South 24 Parganas , Bardhaman, Murshidabad, Nadia , Jalpaigiri and Koch Behar. District-wise incidence of  torture/cruelty, dowry deaths  and total CAW in West Bengal and the the number of persons arrested for CAW during 1995 and 2001 are provided in Appendix table AV 1.

Table V 6 shows the rising incidence of sexual assault  against women in West Bengal districts  in the form of rape(including gang rape), molestation and eve-teasing  , together with the numbers persons arrested.  According to information available for 2003, prevalence of CAW was more pronounced in the districts of North and South 24 Parganas , Bardhaman , Murshidabad, Nadia , Jalpaiguri and Koch Behar. District-wise incidence of torture/cruelty, dowry death and total CAW in West Bengal and number of persons arrested for CAW during 1995 and 2003 are provided  in Appendix Table AV 1.

A  notable  initiative on the part of the state government  has been the  extension of AWCs under  the ICDS scheme to the red light areas of Kolkata and some of the districts.  Four NGOs (SANLAAP, SEVAC, REACH and SLRTC) are currently working in partnership with state agencies  towards the objective of rehabilitating the victims of  trafficking and prostitution.[i] These victims suffer from gross violation of human rights,  physical and mental trauma and  grave risk of STD and HIV/AIDS. Facilities for rehabilitation of victims  are minimal compared to the dimensions of the problem. Against this dismal backdrop it is only concerted action at different levels that can bring about perceptible change : the family has to accept and support women who wish to return to normal life; community leaders have to engage in awareness building regarding trafficking and keep track of suspicious events concerning women at the local level and effective steps have to be taken to ensure economic stability of distressed households that are typically open to the risk of trafficking. One encouraging trend has been a decline in the number of minor girls forced into prostitution in Kolkata's red light area of Sonagachi - from about 25 per cent in 1992 to less than 4 per cent  by 1998, as reported in a survey carried out by the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (Kolkata). [ii]


During the NGO Meet on Empowerment of Women held in Kolkata on 3rd June 2004, under the joint auspices of the National Commission for Women and the West Bengal Commission for Women, attention was drawn to the evil of witch hunting  , which still occurs in the districts of Jalpaiguri and Malda, specially in areas with scant medical and infrastructural facilities. Speedy introduction of basic facilities in the interior areas of districts with large tribal populations was advocated as a strong safeguard against the atrocity of witch hunting. NGOs also drew attention to the need of expanding services to meet demands of more and more women reporting crime and the need of spreading these services beyond Kolkata and South Bengal, where these tend to be concentrated.


The National Commission for Women held an interactive meeting with senior officials of the GOWB in Kolkata on 4th June 2004. The Director General of Police (DGP) West Bengal stated in this meeting that in view of the rising incidence of crimes against women, top priority was being  given to monitoring and controlling offences against women. Under a new system, reports of CAW coming in from all over the state are reviewed by the DGP every evening and necessary directions conveyed to the respective district police authorities. The DGP stated that there were no 'mahila ' thanas in the state but there were 'mahila desks' at all urban police stations and apart from the CAW wing at the West Bengal Police Headquarters in Kolkata , there are special cells for CAW in each district. There are also special Family Counselling Centres  run by the West Bengal police  - 'Seva'  located in the  Criminal Investigation  Department (CID) , Kolkata and the recently opened 'Asha' in Siliguri. Presently  women under threat of violence  can access seven helplines which function with the help of NGOs. Another relevant step taken is the launching of the Missing Persons Website which provides information on missing women, recovery of such women and unidentified dead bodies. 


We now come to the city of Kolkata. Table V 7 presents CAW figures in the metro city of Kolkata for the years 1995 and  2000-2003, while Table V 8 presents the six major crimes against women per one lakh population in the metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai apart from Kolkata. Table V 8 shows that specific crimes against women have increased from a total of 554 in 1995 to 679 in 2003; it also brings into focus the rising trend in cases under section 498A of IPC relating to torture/cruelty by husband/relatives : from 111 in 1995 the number has doubled to 222 in 2003, whereas the number of rape cases show a decrease from 54 to 36 between 1995 and 2003. There is a noticeable spurt in cases of molestation 9185 in 2003), and sexual harassment ( 57 in 2003) and murder ( 52 in 2003). Though the rising incidence of CAW in Kolkata is a cause for grave concern, it is a small consolation to find that in 2001 this city had the lowest crime rates per one lakh population with respect to each of the components of  CAW. This applies to rates of rape, kidnapping and abduction, dowry death, molestation and sexual harassment.

[i] Ibid.

[ii] See The Challenge Ahead, p. 53.


[i] Leela Mehendale, "Crime, Women and Justice Delivery : The System Speaks", Mainstream , 8 January 2001, p. 17.

[ii] West Bengal Commission of Women, The Challenges Ahead: Executive Summary,2004, p.50.

[iii] See Vina Mazumdar (ed), Dui Pribir Uttaran, Kolkata 2000.


                                                                                      Return to Violence Page