On September 28, a day before the 19-year-old from Hathras succumbed to grievous injuries in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, two organisations in Lucknow released a report which shed light on the attitude of Uttar Pradesh police towards women who are survivors of sexual violence.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI) released a report titled Barriers in Accessing Justice, based on the experiences of 14 rape and gang rape survivors in Uttar Pradesh. The findings of the report reveal how difficult it is to register an FIR over such cases in UP even today.
Chances that action would be taken against the accused are even slimmer. The police even humiliate, discourage and harass women and girls battling sexual violence in the process of the FIR registration. The CHRI is an international human rights organisation while AALI is a women-run rights organisation, working since 1998.
In this report, 14 cases of sexual violence reported from Aligarh, Amroha, Auraiya, Lucknow, Jhansi, Jaunpur and Muzaffarpur were studied. Of the cases profiled, 11 were complaints of rape and three were complaints of gang rape. All of these incidents were reported between 2017 and 2020, except one which took place in 2016. Several days’ worth of delays
The report revealed that in none of the cases was the FIR was registered after the first complaint. In 11 cases, FIR did get registered, but only after much effort. In these cases, it took police between two to 228 days to register an FIR. In six of these cases, the FIR was registered only after the rape survivor and their lawyers approached senior police officials.
The report suggests that in an attempt to register an FIR, the woman who had suffered the trauma of the sexual assault, also had to face discrimination based on gender and caste from the police. In five cases out of 11, the FIR was registered after the court’s order.
According to the report, it took 181 days to register an FIR in an rape incident that took place in Aligarh on May 2017. Similarly, for a rape that took place on March 3, 2017 in Amroha, police took 111 days to register an FIR. The police registered an FIR after 74 days in the case of gang rape in a moving car in Auraiya. In another rape case in Jhansi, the police filed an FIR after 228 days.
In the Amroha incident, the police registered the case under Section 354 of the IPC, that is, sexual harassment, instead of rape. In an incident reported in Lucknow on October 17, 2016, the police registered the FIR after 69 days.
In the Indian Penal Code (IPC), all sexual offences, also known as gender-based offences, are considered cognisable. It is mandated by law for the police to immediately file FIRs in complaints of sexual offences. As per 166A(c) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 in April 2013, if a public servant does not register an FIR for sexual violence, he or she can be punished with imprisonment and fine.
The study found that the police initially disbelieved the woman’s complaint in almost all cases. The women said that the police taunted them and pressurised them to compromise with the accused. They were told that they were fabricating the claims to implicate men, taking unfair advantage of the law. Dalit women survivors of sexual violence faced caste-based, in addition to gender-based, discrimination.