One third of the 2,250 officers will be women (file photo: Deccan Chronicle)
The home ministry has proposed setting up 150 special police teams across the country to probe crimes against women and ensure victims get justice, the government said on Monday.
The Investigative Units on Crimes Against Women (IUCAW) would be deployed in all 29 states to conduct thorough probes, and thereby ensure stronger prosecutions and higher conviction rates.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has written to the chief ministers of all the states asking them to examine the proposal, according to a government statement.
"The objective of these units will be to investigate cases referred to them (and) augment the investigative machinery of the states in relation to the heinous crimes against women, especially rape, dowry deaths, acid attacks and human trafficking," said the statement.
The units' responsibilities would include policing, intelligence gathering, tackling organised crime, monitoring implementation of laws, spreading awareness and promoting public participation in checking crimes against women, it said.
According to Reuters, reports of crimes against women in India increased by 26.7 percent to 309,546 in 2013 compared to the previous year, based on figures provided by the National Crime Records Bureau.
These crimes include rape, kidnapping, sexual harassment, trafficking, molestation and cruelty by husbands and relatives. They also include cases in which a woman was driven to suicide as a result of demands for a dowry from her husband or in-laws.
The annual cost of the IUCAW project is estimated to be 840 million rupees ($13.25 million), which will be split between the Centre and states. The statement said that there would 2,250 officers in the 150 units, with a third of the officers being women to help instil confidence and encourage victims to come forward.
Most crimes are not reported as victims are scared to come forward for fear of being "shamed" by their families or communities.
Those brave enough to go to authorities face numerous challenges in getting perpetrators put behind bars, including insensitive police, a lack of counselling, shoddy police investigations, long trials, and weak prosecutions in the courts.
The home minister hopes to change this by asking states to set up fast-track courts specifically for gender crimes to ensure speedy justice.
It’s not clear whether this latest proposal would have enough resources or scale to tackle crimes against women. Activists say that the criminal justice system is too poorly funded, under-resourced and gender insensitive to deliver justice to women.