Journal of Forensic Legal & Investigative Sciences Category: Forensic science Type: Research Article
Investigating Crime against Women - Can Forensic Scientists Bridge the Gap?
- Kanak Lata Verma1, Rachna A1, Madhulika Sharma1, Rajendra Kumar Sarin1, Adarsh Kumar2*
- 1 Department Of Chemistry, Forensic Science Laboratory, Government Of NCT Of Delhi, Sector-14, Rohini, Delhi, India
- 2 Department Of Forensic Medicine And Toxicology, All India Institute Of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
*Corresponding Author:Adarsh Kumar
Department Of Forensic Medicine And Toxicology, All India Institute Of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
Received Date: Jan 24, 2016 Accepted Date: Aug 11, 2016 Published Date: Aug 26, 2016
We in India have learnt to compromise and take blatant denial of justice in our stride. When the social evils become outrageous and impossible realities, a way of life then reacting to such situation obviously takes a stand still. But to choose not to react is unthinkable for forensic personnel, especially when the issue pertains to crime against women. The precursors of these reactions have been the varied number of cases we have examined and our interaction with the police personnel, the judiciary and at times different cross-sections of the society which include young dynamic students pursuing courses in Forensic Science, Law & Medicine. The objective of this manuscript is to bring together a concise set of practical recommendations for improving police behavior towards women and creating awareness among the citizens about the importance of forensic evidence in nailing the culprits responsible for crime against women.
Most of us start our day with the morning newspaper. The newspapers puts before us the one feel good news like women empowerment and we feel elated that finally things are changing but simultaneously dozens of tragic events like rape, murder, molestation, racial attacks, verbal assaults pertaining to women throughout the world in general and India in particular makes us ponder that nothing has changed and the miserable state of women still continues. For the orthodox patriarchal society, woman has always remained a demographic compulsion in human geography. Ours is a plural society and we all are governed by two laws- the social law and the state law. Both these laws operate simultaneously with blurring of boundaries. There are numerous examples where caste panchayats (group of respectable people in society whose words are taken as law-running parallel law) rule the roost, expel couples and torture family members for trespassing the caste boundaries. The number of women being killed for dowry seem so ordinary now, it keeps mowing young innocent girls throughout India but few guilty are convicted. The question of survival exists not only in the undeveloped countries or the under-privileged society but it is rampant everywhere. The need of a woman is thought to be dispensable and in a situation of scarcity, it is invariably sacrificed. When the social set-up is such inside her own house where she is subjected to shame and prejudices on a daily basis; it is only natural that the chauvinistic mindset of the males translates in the professional domains and outside the four walls as well. A group of young Africans found themselves in the middle of a political and media furore in Delhi accused of being part of a “prostitution and drug racket”. The women, mostly from African countries, complained that they were assaulted by “people not in uniform" with "racist remarks” . Shame is a revolutionary sentiment as defined by Karl Marx “Shame is introspective and another name for introverted anger”. A nation ashamed is a ‘lion crouched to spring’. The shattered faith in authority is an indicator to rising unrest and the society in such cases are bound to react fearlessly to preserve its integrity and dignity . Today the Indian society is willing to address the curse with which her daughters are literally born. In the aftermath of the gruesome and brutal rape of the young girl student, on 16 December 2012 the real Indian society where violence against women is normal seems to have mellowed a bit and its defenses are down, accepting the bitter truth of male domination and female subjugation. Lack of respect for women and demand for respect is considered a noise but now this noise has reached a crescendo and commands to be heard. The society has heard and is introspecting. The daughters of India have given the fourth dimension to the society’s struggles. After fighting poverty, untouchability and communalism now women are ‘Fighting Rape’ to stop sexual terrorism .
A careful review of these crimes and very nature of these problems show that they owe their roots to state neglect, corruption and deliberate denial of social justice, inefficiency, abuse of power and office as well as impunity. Crime against women include sexual violence, rape including marital rape, vitriol age, female infanticide, feticide, sexual harassment at workplace and even in prisons, cyber stalking, pornography, physical battery, kidnapping, threats, intimidation, coercion, stalking, humiliating verbal abuse, arson, destruction of property, dowry related violence, threat of exploitation through prostitution, trafficking or violence against household workers. Specially of all these, sexual violence further takes many forms, including rape, sexual slavery or forced pregnancy and incest. Sexual violence also varies by scale and context . Delayed judicial processes, the lack of independent police and investigating agencies, absence of independent and competent prosecutors, the absence of witness protection programs and now an increasing perception of lack of integrity in the judiciary can be identified as some of the major causes. When the democratic content in governance diminishes, the sanction of impunity to law enforcement agencies increases . We have learnt from editorials of eminent leading dailies that the armed forces and para-military forces in Jammu & Kashmir had been part of extra judicial killings. The north-eastern states have also been like occupied territories. Irom Sharmila has been incarcerated for her nonviolent action in Manipur where, she raised her voice and laid unprecedented protest against rape, murder and brutal assault of Thangjam Manorama by Assam Rifles personnels . Raj Kaur loses both her legs to landmines in Fazilka (Punjab) the Behmai widows suffer in oblivion, women are forced to take up bows and arrows in Lalgarh. All these are faces of crime against women, a preventable tragedy and these crimes on women had nothing to do with hormonal stimulation of males in proximity of females. In any conflict as we know the consequences for women are same whichever side they are on . There have been reports of inconsistencies in the way police handles cases which are pertaining to crime against women and some of them are: refusing to order inquiry, not given access to post-mortem report, not even registering FIR’s (First Information Report) trying to impose moral guardianship and unavailability’s of forensic reports. Here it is imperative to mention that convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. India is a signatory to all major covenants and conventions on the rights of women and children in particular. ‘Cruelty by husband and relatives’ continues to occupy the highest share (43.6%) among the crimes committed against women in 2012 followed by ‘assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty’ (18.6%). 15.7% cases were that of kidnapping and abduction, 10.2% of rape, 3.8% of ‘insult to the modesty of women’ and 3.7% of ‘dowry prohibition act’ . Millions of women and girls throughout the world remain powerless, voiceless and without rights. The negative consequences thus reverberate across the globe. A world fit for women is a world fit for children they are inseparable and indivisible and thus empowering women fighting for justice and preventing crime against women is a step towards creating a society that any civilization can be proud of . On 22 December 2012 a judicial committee headed by J. S.Verma a former Chief Justice of India was appointed by the Central government to submit a report within 30 days to suggest amendments to criminal law to sternly deal with sexual assault cases. The suggestions have now been incorporated in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013. This new Act has expressly recognised certain acts as offences which were dealt under related laws. These new offences like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism stalking have been incorporated into the Indian Penal Code [10,11]. We have graduated in our policy from welfare to development and finally to empowerment of women but a police officer in the police station still asks a woman to strip and demonstrate how she was raped and this happens in Delhi the national capital!In-equality is tragic and fatal. A strong positive message to the society has been conveyed when Delhi Police suspended the errant police officer in this case and similarly they showed spine in the African women assault case in Delhi [1,12].
THE FORENSIC APPROACH TO INVESTIGATION OF CRIME AGAINST WOMEN
The importance of evidence collection
Laboratory at the Door of Crime Scene
Tracing the traces
Speed and accuracy
Evidence collection issues
In hanging cases: Look for any type of material evidence underneath the nails (body tissues, flesh which may have been deposited as result of scuffle of the deceased with the culprit) fallen hair, any foreign material or piece of trace evidence.
In burning cases: Okasana Makar, 18-year old Ukrainian woman was brutally raped, strangled and set to fire. She later succumbed to death with 55% burns as reported . In burning cases a search for any type of cooking stove, burner, cigarette lighter, match box, burnt or unburnt matchsticks, lantern, container containing any inflammable liquid (odour can give an indication even if the container is dried) exhibits should be packed in glass containers to avoid loss of the volatile components in the residue.
In cases of vitriolage: A number of cases of vitriolage and the presence of acid and corrosive substances have been detected by instrumental techniques conclusively including the Begumpur acid attack case in the capital . Control sample should be collected from the scene of crime and packed in glass containers, any type of lying container even if it is dry should be collected from the scene of crime.
In suspicious death/poisoning cases: Any kind of medicine, pesticide, tablets , loose powder, empty wrappers/bottles, sharp edged objects, ropes, fire arms, fiber shreds, any inflammable material etc. should not be overlooked. In a dowry death case due to intake of phenyl by a young female the detection of phenolic constituent in the viscera and the bottle seized corroborated the death due to phenyl poisoning. Gastric lavage should be collected and packed properly. Similarly in fall from height cases blood and urine collection for alcohol and drugs detection and estimation is suggested to rule out any intoxication.
In sexual assault cases including child abuse: Biological evidences of the survivor as well as the alleged assaulter strictly as per the national/international guidelines for forensic examination should be collected and preserved properly and not be left to rot at the malkhanas (police store rooms). Also look for non-biological evidences which create suspicion. Clothing and personnel belongings should also be included in the seizure memos. In Hetal Parekh rape case one cream coloured button of the shirt of the assaulter found, was one of the most clinching evidence apart from other biological specimens . Physical evidences lying in and around the scene of crime any containers containing cream/jelly etc., should not be overlooked.
Documents: Incidences of murder of single ladies and senior citizens with a motive to grab their property has been found to be widespread. Suicide notes, forged signatures will etc., are vital exhibits and therefore should be searched for exhaustively and preserved properly in waterproof covers. In the Rehtah Parson’s case cyber bullying lead to suicide of the 17-year old Canadian girl which was the result of shaming and harassment stemming from her rape pictures going viral . Portable devices, CD, DVD, laptops, desktops, mobile phones, digital/video cameras, recorders, answering machines, credit cards and any other electronic gadget which creates suspicion should be seized and data recovered at the earliest, specially in case of the mobile phones before the battery dies. Complete photography and videography of scene of crime is mandatory which will be helpful in crime reconstruction.
Evidence preservation and recovery
Gender sensitization and training
Community based initiative
Media trial of cases
Human rights are not for beasts
The latest development in the investigating techniques in Forensic science is set to herald a quantum leap and truly the technologies that only yesterday were in the realm of science fiction scintillating in our minds as imagination today smiles at us in reality. State of the art technology coupled with the thirst for profound analysis of the cases by law enforcement agencies can open a whole new chapter in the investigation techniques and add immense credibility to it. We have referred to the existing literature for this research paper and then used the minute details available in the number of cases examined with a clear focus on the issue from a gender perspective in this manuscript. The intent is not to provide an exhaustive list of suggestions but the intention is to present a selection of indicators and components for reform-both in context to justice and dealing with dignity in cases related to crime against women. Our intention further resonates in sync with the importance of forensic science and forensic evidence not only as a weapon to fight crime against women but also as a deterrent to such crimes.
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Citation: Verma KL, Rachna, Sharma M, Sarin RK, Kumar A (2016) Investigating Crime against Women-can Forensic Scientists Bridge the Gap?. J Forensic Leg Investig Sci 2: 011.
Copyright: © 2016 Kanak Lata Verma, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.