Trying to Make Sense of India’s Sexual Violence, State by State

I will need my readers help on this one.

Earlier today Al Jazeera published an interactive feature titled “Violence against India’s women.” The info-graphic summarizes a wide range of data relating to sexual violence in India, including the byzantine process victims of rapes must navigate before charges can be pressed. What caught my eye was a state-by-state comparison of rates of sexual violence:

Source: Alia Chugtai. “Interactive: Violence Against Women.” Al Jazeera English. 3 October 2013.

It can be a bit cumbersome to click through the interactive version of this map to view each state’s sex crime rate [1], so I have compiled them in a table for easier viewing:

“Crimes Against Women” per 1000 people.

Based on data presented in Alia Chugtai.
Interactive: Violence Against Women.” Al Jazeera English. 3 October 2013.

I was rather astonished by this data. I expected sexual violence to correspond with development levels. This is not the case. Sexual violence in Assam, West Bengal, and Rajasthan, states with low rates of GDP per capita, literacy, life expectancy, and other common indexes of development,  is barely worse than in Kerala, a state that leads India in almost all of these measures. Strange combinations can also be found at the bottom of the list, where rich developed states like Goa have the same rate of sexual violence as Bihar, India’s poorest and least educated state.

Literacy Rate in India, by province.
Source: “Literacy Rate.” Maps of India. Last updated 12 November 2012.

Neither wealth, knowledge, or living standards can explain the distribution of India’s sexual violence. What does? I have spent the last thirty minutes looking at lists of India’s states by sex ratio, household size, HIV awareness, corruption, language, family structure, and number of Muslims in major metropolitan areas. None of these lists match our pattern. There does seem to be a relation between sexual violence and violent crimes generally but that does not explain too much. We are still left asking why some places in India are plagued with violence while others are relatively free of this problem.  

So I pose this question to my readers: what accounts for the unexpected distribution of crime-especially sexual crime-across India? Why do Kerala and Assam have three times the rate sexual violence of Tamil Nadu or Uttarakhand?

EDIT (10 October 2013):

 The original government report that Al Jazeera used to make the map can be found here. It includes some additional data (p. 88) on the distribution of “crimes against women” in India’s major urban areas:

Among 35 cities, Delhi (3,886) has accounted for 16.0% of total crimes followed by Hyderabad (1,964) (8.1%). The crime rate was significantly higher in Vijayawada, Jaipur, Faridabad, Lucknow, Vishakhapatnam and Agra at 113.7, 50.9, 47.0, 46.4, 45.6 and 45.3 respectively as compared to average of mega cities at 22.6. Delhi city has accounted for 23.0% of Rape cases, 37.7% of Kidnapping & Abduction cases, 14.6% of Dowry Deaths and 16.5% of Molestation cases among 35 cities. Hyderabad has reported 12.2% of cases of Cruelty by Husband and Relatives. Vijayawada has reported 16.0% of cases of Eve-teasing. Kolkata city has reported 3 out of 7 cases reported under Importation of Girls. It is worthwhile to mention that Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Jaipur have booked more cases under Special & Local Laws among the mega cities. 11.9% (111 out of 934) of cases under Immoral Traffic(Prevention) Act and 81.3% (557 out of 685) of Dowry Prohibition Act cases were registered in Bengaluru city alone.

Similarly, 18.6% (174), 14.3% (134) and 13.2% (123) of 934 cases under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act were registered in Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai respectively. All the 24 out of 26 cases under Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act cases were registered in Jaipur city accounting for 92.3% of such cases.


[1] What I call “sex crimes” and “sexual violence” are called “crimes against women” by the Indian government. This is not limited to rape. The Indian government breaks these crimes them into the following groups:

Source: National Crime Records Bureau. Crime in India — 2012. (New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affairs). 4 June 2013. p. 87.

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Is it possible that the difference in rates, while real, might be exaggerated by differences in reporting? For example, in the more developed & educated areas are such crimes more likely to be reported, because a traditional code of silence is weaker? That's only a surmise. It's an interesting question, and I hope your Indian readers will contribute their insights.

It is possible, even probable. Consider this column by Rukmini S in last month's Hindu:

India officially undercounts all crimes including rape

Rukmini S. The Hindu. 13 September 2013.

"The NCRB, under the union Home ministry, compiles its annual ‘Crime in India’ publication based on data that comes to it from state crime records bureaus, which in turn get their data from the First Information Reports (FIRs) filed with every police station in that State. What few know, however, is that the data published by the NCRB only takes into account the ‘principal offence’ in every FIR, that is, the charge that attracts the maximum penalty, a fact confirmed to The Hindu by R. Rajasekaran, deputy director of the NCRB. In the case of a rape-and- murder, such as the December 16 Delhi case, the ‘principal offence’ is murder since it attracts a maximum penalty of death. As a result, rapes that end in murder are recorded only as murders in NCRB’s statistics. “We are trying to improve our system. New editions could include categories like ‘rape-and- murder’ and ‘attempt to rape’,” Mr. Rajasekaran said.

This statistical shortcoming, however, extends beyond rapes-and-murders to virtually all crimes short of murder. Since a typical FIR contains several charges, it is clear that the NCRB statistics are an under-counting of all crimes, but the extent of under-counting is impossible to estimate. Moreover, the four “disclaimers” and four “limitations” that the NCRB lists in its 2012 publication make no mention that the numbers are restricted to ‘principal offences’."

But with that said, it has to be more complex than "more developed & educated areas are such crimes more likely to be reported" because some of the more developed states – Goa, Tamil Nadu – report lower rates.

See if the rate correlates with the percentage of adherents to Islam.

Assam is 31%, West Bengal 25%. Top two in violence against women.

Tamil and Meghalaya are both in the low single-digits for Muslims. Bottom two for violence against women.

Rape is a weapon of Jihad.

One word: Muslims. Assam & West Bengal worst affected & overrun with illegal Bangladeshi Muslims. Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh also is in a similar position. Lot of Burmese muslims have been illegally sheltered.

I considered Islamic population before, and the problem is that while it explains the the tippy top and rock bottom, it does not help much with the rest. For example, Odisha's Muslim percentage floats around 2% but it is more dangerous than Kashmir (66%),Uttar Pradesh (19%), Jharkand (13%), and Karnataka (12%).

Being from Goa, it's immigrants and tourists from the other states who are mostly responsible. Also, interestingly enough, the culprits are usually Hindu. One cause could be the worsening sex ratio among Hindus in the country.