Despite More Stringent Laws, Women are Unsafe in India: Vidhi’s Research Unpacks the Reasons  


National: Harsher punishments, commitment to swifter trials, special courts and special officers have not worked to create a safe environment for women in India. 

For instance, the Parliament of India has passed at least 17 Acts to combat violence against women in India, since 1956. Yet, since 2016, over one lakh cases of cruelty, over 80,000 cases of assault and over 30,000 cases of rape have been registered in India every year. In 2021 alone, over 4.2 lakh such cases have been registered. 

Why is this the case?

To understand the issue better, the Criminal Justice team at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy analysed 20 years of national data and deep-dived into five years of judgments passed by the Mumbai Civil & Sessions Court to unpack the deep biases, abject apathy, and ineffective systems currently in place. 

For instance:

  • Of the 77 cases of cruelty analysed that resulted in the death of the victim, only 7 ended with a conviction. Since 2018, only one person has been convicted of cruelty. Judicial attitudes victimise the victim based on character assessment, the need to uphold the ‘age-old’ institution of marriage, and even routinely reject dying declarations in cases of dowry deaths due to stringent standards of proof. (Blog by Naveed Ahmad and Ayushi Sharma analysing judicial attitudes in cases of cruelty through a critical lens –
  • 263 judgements in cases of rape analysed showed how courts in the pursuit of locating an ideal rape victim and ideal perpetrator relied on stereotypes and rape myths. The conviction rate stood at a mere 4 per cent. 42 per cent of the cases involved a ‘promise to marry’
  • Under the Nirbhaya fund, projects worth Rs. 9764.30 Cr. have been approved. Only Rs. 4087.37 Cr. have been released and a mere Rs. 2871.42 Cr. reported as utilised. 64 per cent of the fund has been appraised for only three projects – the Safe City proposal for 8 cities, setting up of One Stop Centres and setting up of Fast Track Special Courts. Further, 60 per cent of the funds have been released for only 7 states (Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu & Uttar Pradesh).  
  • Executive action remains on paper. Of the 15 states/UTs that responded to our query on appointment of Special Police Officers (SPOs), only 6 have appointed SPOs. Of the 11 States/UTs that responded to our query on the appointment of Trafficking Police Officers (TPOs), only five have appointed TPOs.

To interpret the findings and data in this research, Vidhi has prepared a series of videos – the first of which can be accessed here: 

The full research is available at this website: