There was a significant increase in cases of domestic violence and trafficking during the lockdown, a parliamentary panel report said on Monday.
The report by Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Congress Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma, examined atrocities and offences against women and children.
The Parliamentary panel noted a sharp increase in domestic violence and trafficking of women and children during the COVID-19 pandemic. It revealed that this was primarily due to disruption in economic activities, work from home, and families spending most of their time at home due to the nationwide lockdown. It also stated that female migrant workers and their children were trafficked and went missing during the lockdown.
The report noted that measures must be undertaken by both rural and urban employment guarantee schemes centred on poor women so that cash transfers through Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) in their names could be continued for an extended period. It said that in some rural regions, a moratorium on interest rates for Self Help Groups or loan repayments would be beneficial since women are the primary breadwinners.
Some of these initiatives would increase women's employment participation while significantly minimising discrimination against them.
The report scrutinised the reasons behind the criminal cases against women and children and noted that cases are not reported at the police stations on time.
However, the committee applauded the Rajasthan Police Department's plan to perform decoy operations to determine whether FIRs are registered at police stations. It strongly advised that such decoy operations should be carried out regularly throughout the region. This would increase visibility among police officers on the field, contributing to the registering of further incidents.
The committee also specified that if a victim cannot file an FIR, police must try to record the reason for the delay in the FIR sheet.
"The committee is constrained to note the abysmally low conviction rate in crimes against women and children, which also shows a severe mismatch between the measures adopted and their implementation," the report said.
It recommended that MHA's "Online Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO)" should be adopted and implemented by all states, The Indian Express reported.
The panel emphasised the importance of forensics in cases of rape against women and children and suggested that the Home Ministry take measures to establish at least one forensic laboratory in each state capital.
While addressing the slow pace at which fast track courts for the trial of sexual offences are being set up, the committee considered that against the 1023 Fast Track Special Courts, only 597 Courts, including 325 exclusive POCSO courts, have been made operational in 24 States/UTs.
"This illustrates that there had been an increase in cases over the years. The absence of such courts would cause more justice administration gaps, reducing victims' faith in the justice system," the report noted.
It raised concern about women's low participation in the police force. The committee was distressed to find out that women only make up 10.30 per cent of the police department. The committee was perplexed as to why States/UTs cannot achieve a fair representation of women in the police force.
It further stated that the Nirbhaya Fund was being diverted to other schemes/projects regularly.
The committee took the matter with utmost seriousness and strongly advised the Ministry to stop sanctioning money allocated for Nirbhaya Fund for other schemes. It emphasised the importance of public transportation safety in reducing crimes against women.
The committee suggested that MHA collaborate with the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways to develop mandatory guidelines for installing and maintaining CCTV cameras, GPS, panic button, and controllers in public transport across the country.
The operating staff's helpline numbers should be displayed on the transportation system, including the name, ID, and other information.