New Delhi police report surge in number of sex crimes

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Police on Saturday announced a sharp jump in sex crimes reported in the Indian capital since the fatal gang rape of a student and attributed the rise to more confidence among victims to report complaints.

"More women are shedding their inhibitions and registering complaints with us. After the December 16 gang rape, nobody in Delhi wants to brush crime under the carpet," law and order commissioner Deepak Mishra told AFP.

There was a 148-per-cent leap in rape accusations lodged with police to 359 incidents between January 1 and March 24 this year from the same period in 2012 and a 590-percent rise in molestation reports to 794, police said.

The brutal attack on a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in New Delhi on December 16 that resulted in her death nearly two weeks later sparked nationwide outrage and prompted parliament to toughen penalties for sex crimes.

Though gang rape and sexual harassment are common in India, the case touched a nerve and led to a flood of criticism about the treatment of women in society.

"Cases of sex crimes have shot up in 2013 because we are following a strict rule of not ignoring a single incident of crime," said Mr Mishra, who is responsible for crime prevention in the capital.

Before the December gang rape, he said, Delhi police had a policy in many instances of investigating incidents before registering a formal case, leading to complaints by women that authorities were turning a blind eye to sex crimes.

But now "the instruction is clear - every crime incident should be recorded", said Mr Mishra.

The city has a burgeoning population of at least 16 million and has long had a reputation of being the country's "rape capital" as it records the highest number of rapes annually.

In 2012, there were 700 rapes reported in New Delhi, a 23-per-cent rise from the previous year, police said.

Ms Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, a rights group, also attributed the sharp jump in sex cases in New Delhi to more confidence among women to register complaints.

"They are more open to using the word 'rape' as before it was considered too much a shameful word to utter" for fear of being stigmatised in sexually conservative India, she told AFP.

At the same time, she noted that while Indian authorities have announced a string of measures to help women feel safer, "incidents of sex crimes are not decreasing".

Earlier this month, a Swiss cyclist was allegedly gang-raped in central Madhya Pradesh state and a British tourist in Agra jumped off a hotel balcony fearing she was going to be sexually attacked.

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