Those who rape kids should be hanged in six months: DCW chief Swati Maliwal
In light of two gruesome rapes of minors, in the capital this month, the Delhi Women’s Commission (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal has been going on a ‘women’s safety drive’ at night to observe the provisions of women’s safety in public spaces. Maliwal along with other members of the commission have been visiting many locations across the city in the middle of the night without giving prior knowledge to the authorities concerned.
Catch spoke to the DCW chief about the motivation behind the drive and what she aims to achieve by it.
Q: What prompted the drive and what will you achieve by it?
A: A one and a half year old and a seven year old were raped and gangraped respectively in the capital this month. They are both in a grave condition. I met the one and a half year old and her family and it really upset me.
The seven year old girl was in a terrible condition too when I went to see her in the hospital. These two incidents have really disturbed. In the last 2 years as the DCW chief, we have tried to move heaven and earth to try and achieve the smallest of things for safety of women.
We have taken up more than 11 thousand cases in the past one year, heard lakhs of calls, have made 55 recommendations to the central and state governments, counselled about 1900 sexual assault victims and assisted sexual assault victims in 5500 cases in the courts. We are the only women’s commission in the country working on Saturdays officially. Despite working tirelessly and increasing the scope of our work, the capital continues to be unsafe for women.
The truth is that the recommendations the DCW is giving the Union government are not being adhered to. In light of these recent incidents, I decided to start these safety drives at night to see the reality of what is going on in public places in terms of safety provisions of women. I wanted to personally witness whether our recommendations for safety of women in public spaces like railway stations, bus stations, night shelters, public toilets was being implemented on the ground. In the past one week, I have visited the New Delhi Railway Station on both Ajmeri Gate and Paharganj side, Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station, Kashmere Gate ISBT, police stations, many public toilets across the city, night shelters and government hospitals.
Q: What did you find in these night drives?
A: The truth is that despite being DCW chief, as a woman I feel unsafe travelling or being in these places at night. In the New Delhi Railway station, for instance, I found that there were only two women constables and both of them were stationed on the Paharganj station side. None on Ajmeri Gate side. It was around 1:30 am and there were thousands of female commuters in the station and next to no security.
Rs.12 crore from the Nirbhaya fund was allotted to the railway stations in the capital to ensure safety of women but on the ground I found no security personnel. Same was the case in Hazrat Niamuddin station. The New Delhi Railway Station is also very close to GB Road. The city's crime branch has busted many human trafficking cases and the girls have been kidnapped from the Railway Station only.
This makes the area more vulnerable to crime and women being unsafe in the area. Yet the security on the ground is terrible. We also went to four police stations. We realized that all the police stations had 50% of their sanctioned strength in the night and hardly any lady officers. We even went to many public toilets and realized that even men end up using toilets meant for women at night.
On Sunday night, we went to Jahangirpuri where we heard cases of many women being harassed by drunken men at night. We busted a liquor mafia who sells alcohol in the residential areas way into night. So overall we have been finding many violations and discrepancies in initiatives recommended by DCW and the courts for safety for women in the capital in the night time.
Q: So, what is the DCW plan to do with the findings of the night drive?
A: We are addressing each of these issues that we have found during our night drive separately. For example, we have written to the Railway authorities about the lack of security we experienced at the stations. At the same time, we have asked him to set up 24x7 help desk across all the railway stations in the capital. We have also issued a notice to the concern Deputy Commissioner of Police regarding safety of women in public places like bus stands, public toilets, and night shelters.
We have also sought answers from them as to why enough women officer and constables are not stationed at police stations at night. I have even written to the Home Ministry informing him that 66,000 more police personnel are required in Delhi alone to provide proper policing in the city of Delhi. It is a very large number but that is the real requirement on the ground.
Q: What are the immediate steps required to be taken by the government?
A: There are two things that are required from the government immediately. The fact is that between 2012 to 2016, 31,446 crimes against women were registered in the capital. Of this number, only in about 150 cases, have the perpetrators been convicted.
That is the present scenario, there is no fear in the mind of the assaulters. Based on these stark figures, we have been demanding that at least in the cases of child rape there should be a strong deterrence. Within six months a death penalty should be served if they accused has been found guilty. And for the issue of women’s safety in the capital and the implementation of various recommendations, a high level committee must be set up that meets at least once or twice a month.
The committee must have the Home minister, the Delhi Chief Minister, the L-G, the police commissioner and the DCW chief. We are demanding that this mechanism is drawn up within this month. This is the only way forward since the situation on the ground isn’t getting better.