Ninety-two disability rights organisations, activists and concerned citizens have written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on January 20 saying they were “dismayed” that the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) does not maintain “disaggregated data” on violence against disabled women.
The letter stated that many of the organisations and activists had been following up on the issue with different ministries – including the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment – and departments like the National Commission of Women.
“Unfortunately, we are yet to see any positive development towards its fructification,” the letter said.
The activists mentioned that the United Nations Committee which had been monitoring the implementation of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in September 2019 had recommended that the Indian government, “Ensure that the National Crime Records Bureau collect data disaggregated by sex, age, place of residence, relationship with perpetrator and disability in cases of violence and exploitation, including gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities, and violence inflicted by intimate partners.”
They added that in an advisory issued on September 28, 2020 – during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – the National Human Rights Commission had recommended that the NCRB maintain data on PwDs too.
“The maintenance of such data, you will appreciate, will enable policy-makers in particular, and other stakeholders in general, to formulate strategies and mechanisms to respond to their particular needs, which can be disability specific, in facilitating access to the criminal justice system, among other things,” the letter said.
In 2014, a report by Rashida Manjoo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, had mentioned the lack of disaggregated data which “renders the violence committed against women with disabilities invisible.”
“This issue becomes all the more urgent as we are witnessing a growing number of cases of sexual assaults on girls/women with disabilities. We observe that during the pandemic period also there has been no respite. On the contrary, we find that there has been an increase in their numbers and the ferocity and brutality inflicted on the victims/survivors has escalated,” the activists said.
The letter mentioned that in many cases “perpetrators seek to maim the survivor with the intention of further impairing her capacity to get through an already inaccessible criminal justice system.” They cited the case of a girl from Bihar’s Madhubani where perpetrators attempted to damage the eyes of a hearing and speech impaired girl after subjecting her to gang-rape.
They said it “defies logic” why the NCRB, a national repository of crime data, did not maintain such data. A Right to Information (RTI) query in 2020 had said that such data was not available and that “police is a State Subject under the 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Hence you are advised to obtain the information directly from the concerned state/UT.”
“By that reasoning, NCRB should not be collating data for most of the crimes, as law and order is a state subject!” their letter said.
The activists urged the home minister to pass orders which would ensure that the NCRB kept data which included, but was not limited to “sex, age, place of residence, relationship with perpetrator and disability in cases of violence and exploitation, including gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities, and violence inflicted by intimate partners.