A hospital in Mumbai has become the first in India to open a crisis centre for survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes.
The King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital and Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College provides support for those who have experienced rape, acid attacks and child abuse with medical examination and counselling through a ‘one stop centre’, which is the first facility of its kind at a civic hospital in India according to one official. “The centre has gynaecologists, physiatrists and forensic experts under one roof. This will help to speed up the process of preparing the medical reports, which have to be handed over to police and courts,” he said. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani inaugurated the centre.
Rape is a major issue in India when it comes to public health, society, and law, serving as a chilling reminder of the country’s gender gap. In 2013, 93 women were raped every day in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 34,651 cases of rape were reported in 2015. According to Feminism India, 2.5 million crimes against women – of which rape accounts for around twelve percent – have been reported in the last decade. The overall number of crimes against women increased by 83 percent between 2007 and 2016.
Such statistics are unlikely to reflect the true burden of sexual violence in the country. As reported in The Independent, “rape is one of the most under-reported crimes in India – with some estimates indicating ninety to 95 percent of rape cases remain unreported.” The conviction rate for rape, the paper reported, is much lower compared to other crimes.
In December last year, a 10,000-kilometre ‘Dignity March’ commenced in Mumbai to raise awareness of rape in the country. Thousands walked across 200 districts in 24 states between December 22 and February 19, culminating at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. Human rights organisation Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan (National Campaign for Dignity) convened the march, in which time they claim to have interacted with 25,000 survivors of sexual violence, 3,000 journalists, 2,000 lawyers, and 200 policymakers.
“The Dignity March is a call for women and children to speak out their experiences of sexual abuse without shame. It is also an appeal for the stakeholders and the larger community to create a healthy, non-judgmental and a safe environment to support the voices of the survivors and to take the fight for justice forward,” Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan said in a statement. “It is time to speak up, condemn the act of sexual violence and to end the culture of victim shaming/blaming and shift the blame. Collectively, we must hold the state actors accountable to ensure justice to survivors.”