On the evening of 9 September 2021, a six-year-old girl in Saidabad was playing outside her one-room house. Her mother was cooking in the kitchen. At around 6 pm, a man living next door came and inquired about the girl to her mother. The unsuspecting woman told him she was playing.
It grew dark but the girl did not return home for a long time. The family grew restive. Soon, they started searching for the girl. The entire locality also joined them. The news of the missing girl echoed through the local masjid loudspeaker.
After receiving a complaint, the Saidabad police started searching for the girl in the lanes of the area. Around 7 p.m, the family, suspicious of the accused, visited his house but it was locked. Despite their repeated pleas to break open the door and look for the girl, the police were reluctant to break the door. They said they could not barge into someone's house without a formal complaint.
Finally, around 12:30 a.m, the police along with the locals broke the lock and entered the house. They found a mattress rolled over and covered by a banner. When the police checked the mattress, they found the girl's body.
On 9 March 2021, the Kanchanbagh police received a written complaint from a victim's brother. He said that for the past three years their stepdad was sedating and raping his minor sister in his house.
He said she became pregnant at the age of 14. When their mother came to know about the pregnancy, she tried to abort her child. However, a boy was born in January 2019.
Instead of stopping her husband, their mother told her daughter to keep quiet. To cover up her husband's misdeeds, she told her relatives that she had married off the girl to someone in the Gulf. She said her daughter had later delivered a baby.
Even after delivering the child, the stepfather continued to rape and impregnate the girl. He gave her pills for abortion. The victim's brother said that for the past three years, the man had been raping his minor sister while their mother supported him.
According to the Hyderabad City Police Annual Report 2021, rape cases in the city increased by 16% in 2021 as compared to 2019. The commissioner of Hyderabad police, Anjani Kumar, during the annual press meet on 22 December said the number of cases registered in 2021 was 328 as compared to 281 in 2019. The cases were a little less in 2020 (265).
Additional commissioner of police Shikha Goel said out of the 328 cases reported in 2021, only in seven cases were the accused people strangers to the victims.
Meanwhile, the number of cases of crimes against women in the city also increased by two per cent in 2021. From 2,354 in 2019, the cases rose to 2,393 in 2021. In 2020, the number was 1,908.
Out of the 2,393 crimes against women in the city, one was dowry murder, 15 were dowry deaths, 13 were abetment to suicide, 328 were rape, 1,474 were harassment, 90 were kidnapping cases, and 461 were outraging the modesty of women.
Dowry murder & dowry death
The payment of dowry has long been prohibited under the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498A of the IPC.
Section 304(b) of the Indian Penal Code states that if a woman dies within seven years of marriage by any burns or bodily injury or if it was revealed that before her marriage she was exposed to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any other relative of the husband in connection to demanding dowry, then the death of the woman will be considered as dowry death.
Most dowry deaths occur when the young woman, unable to bear the harassment and torture, die by suicide. In other cases, the husband or his relatives kill the woman because of their dissatisfaction with the dowry.
In 2021, one dowry murder was reported in the city. In 2019, it was three and in 2020, it was two.
Compared to 2019 (22 cases), the number of dowry death cases have reduced to 15 in the city in 2021. In 2020, 19 cases of dowry deaths were reported.
Abetment to suicide
According to Section 306 of the IPC, if a person (here woman) ends her life then whoever abets the suicide shall be punished.
In 2021, 13 cases of abetment to suicide of women were reported. This is comparatively lesser than 28 in 2019 and 14 in 2020.
Section 366 of the IPC states that whoever kidnaps or abducts a woman with the intent to compel her to marry any person against her will or to forcefully seduce her to illicit intercourse or having the knowledge of such possibilities shall be punished.
According to the city police, cases of kidnapping of women reduced in the city. From 95 in 2019, it has come down to 90 in 2021. In 2020, 60 kidnapping cases were registered.
Outraging modesty of women
Indian law ties the modesty of a woman to sex. According to Section 354 of the IPC, 'outraging the modesty of women' includes any forceful act by the accused which violates the sexual dignity of a woman like touching her without consent. The reaction of the woman is very relevant in such cases.
Besides rape cases, the number of cases of outraging the modesty of women also increased by 2.9% in the city. From 448 in 2019, the cases increased to 461 in 2021. In 2019, 438 cases were reported.
Section 354 of IPC defines harassment as when a man commits any of the following acts – physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures, a demand or request for sexual favours, showing pornography against the will of a woman, making sexually coloured remarks.
Harassment cases increased by 0.8% in Hyderabad from 1,462 in 2019 to 1,474 in 2021. In 2020, 1,043 cases were registered.
This year, the Hyderabad city police compared the 2021 statistics with 2019 figures owing to the COVID-19 lockdown and the resultant restrictions in the city in 2020. "In 2020, for almost half a year, we were under certain kinds of restrictions. So, our comparison of crime should be based on 2019 statistics as of 2020," said the city commissioner.