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Public spaces are those spaces where all citizens, irrespective of gender, caste, class, sexuality, disability or any other social identity have a right to access. Importantly, the geographies of public space are gendered and ‘practiced place’, where individuals use these spaces to fulfil their varied needs and aspirations of their everyday life while trying to maintain dignity, safety and self-respect. With increased urbanization and neoliberal economic transformation, Indian women’s mobility through public spaces has increased. A number of recent evidence including the high-profile December 2012 Nirbhaya (fearless) gang-rape case in New Delhi suggest that the towns and cities lack a sense of belongingness and fail to safeguard its women and vulnerable population. The horrific Nirbhaya incident, which triggered massive nationwide protest led to the constitution of a number of committee/commission like Justice Verma Committee (JVC), Justice Usha Mehra Commission as well as amendments to a number of legislations—Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015—all aimed at enhancing women’s safety. Yet, the incidents of women’s assaults continue to bear powerful resonance. Arguably, women’s safety is development. The key aim of this chapter is two-fold. First, it aims to review the spatialities of women’s unsafety using the National Crime Records Bureau database. Second, using these data and in conjunction with the recommendations of the JVC report, Justice Usha Mehra Commission, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, it makes suggestions for improving the geographies of gendered public space in order to make them liveable.
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Although, cases of VAW could be varied spanning from murder, robbery, demanding ransom, cheating, etc., but here, only gender-specific crimes are considered as VAW (Crime in India 2015).
Nirbhaya was a 23-year-old woman who was being gang raped by six men in a moving bus and then left in a ‘vegetative state’ (who later died), when she was returning home from cinema with her boyfriend on that fatal night of 16 December 2012 (Bhattacharyya 2015, 2016). Among the six men, one of them was a juvenile at the time of committing the crime (Bhattacharyya and Sarma 2017).
The NCRB data are collected from all police stations across the nation-state based on the First Information Reports (FIRs) filed in the police stations. These data are first collated at the state level, which are then accumulated at the national level (S 2016).
VAW considered under IPC are rape, attempt to rape, kidnapping and abduction of women, dowry deaths, assault on women with intent to outrage her/their modesty, insult to the modesty of women, cruelty by husband or his relatives, importation of girl from foreign country and abetment of suicide of women.
Those acts that aim to handle VAW effectively—Commission of Sati Prevention Act, Indecent Representation of Women (P) Act, The Dowry Prohibition Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act are considered under SLL.
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The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, No. 2 of 2016. Retrieved from, http://trackthemissingchild.gov.in/trackchild/readwrite/JJAct_2015.pdf.
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The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, which was passed aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident on 2 April 2013 (Bhattacharyya 2013a) incorporated a rigorous definition of rape and punishment of rape and gang rape by substituting the earlier Sections 375, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C and 376D of the IPC into sections as 375 (rape); 376, 376A, 376B, 376C (punishment of rape); 376 D (gang rape) and 376 E (punishment for repeat offenders) (for details, please see pages 5–8 of The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, No. 13 of 2013, Ministry of Law and Justice. Retrieved from, http://indiacode.nic.in/acts-in-pdf/132013.pdf).
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According to the World Bank, in 2016 the size of the population stood at 1.324 billion, Populatiion, total, The World Bank. Retrieved from, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=IN.
Until 1994, NCRB data on crime against women were available only for rape, and kidnapping and abduction of women and girls. Since 1995, NCRB data on gender-specific crime against women is available under separate heads.
There are no individual data for different forms of VAW from the cities of North East India.
The breakdown of the NCRB data for different forms of VAW (under IPC and SLL) is available for the cities only since the year 2000.
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Smart Cities Mission is a flagship programme of the Government of India launched in 2015 that aims to build 100 smart cities across the nation-state with an allocated budget of INR 980 billion (US$15 billion). In the first phase, based on proposal competition among the 100 cities, 20 cities have been selected. These 20 cities are—Bhubaneshwar (Odisha), Pune (Maharastra), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Surat (Gujarat), Kochi (Kerala), Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), Solapur (Maharashtra), Davangere (Karnataka), Indore (Madhya Pradesh), New Delhi, Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), Kakinada (Andhra Pradesh), Belgaum (Karnataka), Udaipur (Rajasthan), Guwahati (Assam), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Ludhiana (Punjab), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh). Each of these 20 cities would receive INR10 billion over a span of five years (Central government funding of INR 5 billion to be matched with equal funding from States and local bodies). None of these 20 cities has dedicated strategies for enhancing women’s safety in public spaces although there are provisions for providing smart lighting system, CCTV for surveillance/crime monitoring, seamless Wi-Fi connectivity/Wi-Fi hotspots in some of these cities (Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved from, http://smartcities.gov.in/content/smart_solution.php).
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The numbers in parentheses show the number of judges.
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- Geographies of Indian Women’s Everyday Public Safety
- Chapter 15