Assam trafficking figures present grim picture

By The Telegraph:

A total of 259 children from Assam were trafficked in the past two years.19.jpg

According to latest figures released by the Union ministry of women and child development, 129 and 130 children of the state have been trafficked during 2015 and 2016 respectively.

These figures present a disturbing picture. The situation on the ground, however, could be far worse as many cases of trafficking go unreported.

Though the cases of child trafficking in Assam have remained almost same in the past two years, the cases of women trafficking has shown a declining trend in the state in 2016 compared to the previous year, which is seen as a positive development.

The number of women trafficked from the state has come down to 163 in 2016 compared to 187 in 2015.

According to data for 2015, released by the National Crime Records Bureau, Assam has emerged as the trafficking hub of the country.

With 1,494 cases, the state accounts for 22 per cent of the total reported cases of trafficking across India.

Assam also has the highest number of child trafficking – 1,317 cases – which account for 38 per cent of the national figure.

The ministry of women and child development is implementing Ujjawala, which is a comprehensive scheme for the rescue, rehabilitation and re-integration of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.

Rishi Kant, a member of anti-trafficking NGO Shakti Vahini, described the decline in number of women trafficked from Assam as a positive sign. “It is an indication that the police, administration and NGOs working in this field have taken the issue seriously and are working in the right direction,” he said.

Shakti Vahini was involved in the rescue of women and children trafficked from Assam in Delhi and Haryana.

The number of women and children trafficked from other northeastern states is almost negligible as last year’s figures were in single digits, except in Manipur where 16 women were trafficked in 2016.

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Teenager Survives rape, Torture and Sex trade for 5 years.

By Mail Today :

15-year-old girl was brought to Delhi on the pretext of job, but was raped repeatedly for five years.
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Teenager Survives rape, Torture and Sex trade for 5 years

She was brought to Delhi at the age of 15 on pretext of job. Since then she has been confined and raped repeatedly. She was also forced into prostitution and few days back when she refused to sell her body, the person who brought her to Delhi tied her and left her starved for more than three days.

The accused assaulted her, raped her, sodomised her and beat her up. He had even tried to pluck her tongue using pliers.

On Tuesday when the accused, identified as Litu Mitra, 30, stepped out of his residence in Southeast Delhi’s Govindpuri area, he left the door open. Taking the advantage of the situation, the captive Jyoti (name changed), who is 19 now, managed to escape. She reached an NGO in that area, which helped her to approach the police.

CASE REGISTERED

A case has been registered and Mitra was arrested on Friday. Narrating her ordeal, Jyoti toldMail Todaythat in 2013 she met Mitra, while she at a railway station in West Bengal. The man promised her a job in Delhi and boarded the train with her. Mitra asked her to stay at his rented residence in Govindpuri.

After two days, he raped her and filmed it. He used to blackmail with the tape and raped her repeatedly. Few months later, he allegedly forced her into prostitution. “His friends and customers have raped me, for which he got paid. Whenever I resisted, they complained about it to Mitra and he had beaten me up in front of them. And then I was forced to do what they wanted,” a pained Jyoti told Mail Today.

She had tried to escape a number of times but to no avail. Mitra has been unemployed and Jyoti became a source of income for her. She told police that there have been days when Mitra brought along seven to eight clients a day. Her medical report is with Mail Today.WHAT HAPPENED

On April 22 she was asked to serve some clients in Noida. When she objected Mitra beat her with iron rod and pipe. Then having tied her with a rope he raped her. He allegedly sodomised her as well. Jyoti has severe injuries on her chest too. “Whenever I had raised my voice, he grabbed my mouth and held my tongue with pliers.”

“On Tuesday at around 5pm, when Mitra stepped out, I noticed the door was left open. After I managed to escape, I reached a shop, luckily the owner of which ran an NGO. He helped me to approach the police,” she said.

Speaking to Mail Today, Naresh Kumar, the mentioned shop owner recalled that when she reached his shop, she was shivering. She narrated her woes and showed her injuries.

A call was made to the police control room and she was taken to Govindpuri police station. From there she was taken to the hospital for medical aide and check-up.

“Based on her statement, a case under Section 376, 366A, 323, 354C of the IPC and 6/12 POCSO Act has been booked against Mitra, who remained absconding for up to four days,” Romil Baaniya, DCP (southeast) said, adding he has been arrested on Friday evening.

 

Jharkhand’s Missing Children: Rampant Trafficking, Helpless Parents and Growing Anger

By The India EXPRESS: 

Jharkhand: From an area known for its lost children, The Indian Express tells a story of rampant trafficking, helpless parents, indifferent government, and growing anger
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Budhi, whose 12-yr-old daughter is missing for nearly a year now, with her other daughter Dori at their house in Nagaon village in Chaibasa. (Source: Express Photo by Subham Datta)

Seven people were killed by tribal mobs following rumours they were child-lifters, near Jamshedpur recently. From an area known for its lost children, The Indian Express tells a story of rampant trafficking, helpless parents, indifferent government, and growing anger

BUDHI Sandil has been waiting for her 12-year-old daughter for nearly a year now. “A person I knew in my village approached me and said he would take her to Delhi for a year. That she would get proper education there and work as a domestic help. They promised me Rs 40,000 at the end of the year,” says the 32-year-old widow, a mother of three.

Showing the photo of a slender girl, in short hair and a school uniform, her only photo of her daughter apart from the one in her Aadhaar card, Budhi remembers the date she left home. It was February 16, 2016. But she no longer remembers what the 12-year-old was wearing. Budhi accompanied her from their Latarshahi tola to the edge of their Nagaon village.

The tribal girl was first taken to Goelkhara in Chaibasa district, and then to Delhi. For the first couple of months, Budhi says, she was allowed to talk to the family. “She said she did not like the place. Call me home, she would cry.”

Then, the calls stopped. “In August, they said my girl had gone missing from Delhi. I asked them to find her, they did not respond and instead asked me to keep shut,” claims Budhi. “We informed other villagers, we planned a meeting. I received phone calls from persons who claimed to be police officers who threatened me,” says Baldeo Sandil, the girl’s uncle.

Scared, Budhi says she didn’t go to police but approached the local unit of Childline, which is supported by the Union Women and Child Development Ministry. Finally, last week, after The Sunday Express visited her home with Childline officials, a complaint was lodged in the case. “We are looking into it. There are many such cases in Chaibasa and other areas of Jharkhand,” says Anish Gupta, Chaibasa police superintendent, who has managed to successfully trace many of the “missing” children from here.

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At Govindpur village near Shobhapur, where the lynchings happened, tension prevails. (Source: Express Photo by Subham Datta)

Latarshahi tola is located around 100 km from Shobhapur and Nagadi villages, near Jamshedpur town, where seven people were killed on rumours of being “bachcha chor (child lifters)” by a tribal mob over the night of May 17-18. The rumours against the seven had no basis. The tola has 150 houses, most of them of daily wage labourers or small farmers. Budhi’s husband died four years ago and she works in the fields earning Rs 120-150 a day.

Hundreds of children have gone missing from tribal-dominated areas of Jharkhand over the years. There are no records of others as parents, such as Budhi, rarely lodge a complaint. On March 29 this year, replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State, Home, Gangaram Ahir said 109 trafficking cases had been reported in Jharkhand in 2016, the fifth highest in the country in a state that ranks 16th in size. In April this year, 29 girls from Jharkhand were rescued in Delhi alone.

In Chaibasa, Childline receives 30 cases of missing children and trafficking on an average in a month. In 2016-17, 231 such cases were either registered or referred to it. That was a lucky year as they were able to retrieve 228 of the children. Most children were rescued from Delhi and adjoining areas. Says Chaibasa SP, Gupta, “We have rescued girls from factories and from areas where they work as domestic helps.”

Officials say the racket is spread across the interior villages, with girls taken to Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Mumbai and Kolkata, where they end up in brothels, sex rackets or as domestic workers. “Poverty and unemployment are the main cause for parents sending their children away. Traffickers offer Rs 5,000 a month, which is a very big sum for the tribals,” says Rajesh Pati, who is associated with Childline.

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A growing number of tribals at Shobhapur village and other areas now have smartphones and are on social media (Source: Express Photo by Subham Datta)

Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, which has been helping the administration rescue the girls from different parts of the country, says, “Though police have cracked down on some gangs, others operate freely. Apart from Gumla, Khunti and other areas, child trafficking is on the rise in Simdega and Chaibasa areas… Children are mostly lured through placement agencies, with tribals who are trusted in the villages acting as middlemen. The kingpins are based in Delhi. For instance last year, one Pannalal Mahato who is suspected to have trafficked nearly 30,000 girls from Jharkhand was arrested by the police from Delhi. Mahato made crores and owns huge properties in Delhi and Jharkhand.”

Gupta says he arrested the kingpins from Delhi as well as middlemen and women while he was posted in Khunti. “From 2005 to 2014, the state government data shows 3,838 missing children, of whom 1,177 are yet to be found. 675 FIRs were lodged in this period. On the ground, the numbers are much higher,” says Baidnath Kumar, a child rights activist in Jharkhand.

***

Jharkhand’s 32 tribal groups together constitute 26.2 per cent of the state’s total population. More than 91 per cent of them live in villages. Districts such as West Singbhum, Gumla, Ranchi, Lohardanga, Pakaur have a high tribal population. Most tribals are engaged in agriculture or work as artisans, while a small section are hunter-gatherers. Lack of irrigation restricts them to one to two crops a year, while there is almost no agriculture in most areas during the summer months.

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Sheikh Salim’s wife Naseema Khatun (right) and mother Rehana Khatun with his picture at their home at Haldiphoker near Jamshedpur. Sheikh Salim was one of the four victim who was lynched on May 18. (Source: Express photo by Subham Dutta)

This has led many tribals to migrate for work. According to NGOs in the state, while over 5 per cent of the state’s population migrates in search of work to other states every year, this figure is 15 per cent in the tribal-dominated districts such as Dhanbad, Lohardanga and Gumla. Over 80,000 people travel from Dhanbad to Howrah in West Bengal every year for jobs, say NGOs.

“Work is available here, but people are migrating out. In the process, children are being trafficked. Tribal society is particularly vulnerable and scared. There is a need for awareness. Not only government agencies but NGOs also need to play a role,” says Nilkanth Singh Munda, the state Minister for Development, Panchayati Raj and Rural Work.

Baldeo of Latarshahi tola, whose niece is missing, says that in lean months, it is difficult for them to earn anything. At most, he says, they get work for two to three days in a month under the MNREGS. “Receiving payment is another ordeal. To collect the Rs 780 weekly payment, we have to spend Rs 300. The bank is far away and we have to make two to three trips to get the money. And then there is a middleman too.”

As per the 2011 census, at 57.1 per cent, the literacy rate among the Scheduled Tribes in Jharkhand is far below the national average of 74.04 per cent. Apart from the low literacy rate, high unemployment and poverty, what also makes the tribals vulnerable is the presence of Naxals in these areas. The districts with a high rate of missing children and trafficked children are also the ones affected by Naxal violence. Villagers say the Naxals are looking for children to join their ranks, and many of them send their children away so that they can be “safe”.

Gupta says that more than Naxals, the region now has the presence of the Peoples’ Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a splinter group. “The PLFI survives on extortion and, with development coming to these areas, they are trying to spread their base. The PLFI provides shelter to the traffickers in exchange for money,” the police officer alleges. The Naxal fear is another reason the tribals keep away from police, afraid that they might be branded as informers by the insurgents, a fact confirmed by the police officer.

***

According to police and NGOs, tribal girls are most sought after because their parents agree to offers of even small wages due to poverty. Their parents are also generally scared of approaching police, a point repeated again and again by tribals in the wake of the lynchings.

Archana Singh, a celebrated police officer who headed the anti-trafficking unit in Khunti district and retired early this year, agrees that the fear of being turned away makes most tribals reluctant to approach police. “Initially, the parents did not come to us. However, when we started to rescue girls from Delhi and other areas and brought them back, they started coming to me in groups whenever I visited the villages. They would ask, ‘Will you bring my child back?’. It was emotional for us too, reuniting the families, in the small way we could,” says Singh.

“From 2014 to early 2017,” she adds, “we were able to arrest 80 traffickers, including kingpins from Delhi. It was hard since traffickers wielded dabang-like powers and were very well connected. We rescued hundreds of girls from Delhi and other parts who hailed from Khunti district. But this is one district and just the tip of the iceberg.”

Gupta says they are trying to sensitise police officers towards the concerns of tribals. “But old habits die hard. It is true that a section of officers in police stations do not make it a priority to heed trafficking cases of children.”

At the fag end of 2016, the state passed The Private Placement Agencies and Domestic Workers (Regulation) Bill to regularise private placement agencies on the initiative of Chief Minister Raghubar Das. The bill makes it mandatory for placement agencies to register themselves and keep records of the women they find jobs for and their work location. It also makes it mandatory for all transactions to be made through banks. It is awaiting the Governor’s nod.

“It is true that many of our girls are trafficked outside. But hundreds of girls are being rescued and handed over to their families. We are tracking placement agencies. Traffickers both in Delhi and other areas, the middlemen in Jharkhand, are all being arrested. It is taking time but we will tackle this,” says Louis Marandi, Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Child Development.

***

The rumours of child-lifters being on the prowl in the tribal areas began circulating around a month ago, and quickly spread. Even the most interior villages in Jharkhand now have mobile connectivity, and the recent offer of cheap data and voice calling by Reliance Jio has prompted many to buy smartphones and join social media. As the rumours passed from phone to phone, the government was caught completely unawares.

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80-year-old Guruprasad Verma, grand father of the victims lynched in Bagbeda breaks down at his residence on Tuesday in Jamshedpur. (Source: Express photo by Subham Dutta)

A WhatsApp message in Hindi, that sounded like an official release, warned people against child-lifters and listed three fictitious incidents of child-lifting on May 9 and May 10 in different areas of East Singhbhum. Many of the messages even included images of the children.

“In my village, almost everyone now has a cellphone. The youth now spend all day huddled together, watching something or the other,” says Govind Murmu, a 60-year-old from Shobapur village. The messages also coincided with the leanest season for agriculture in these parts, leaving many youths unemployed.

Tana Murmu, 19, sitting with his friends at a Shobhapur chowk, says the phones have brought the world to them. “You are from Kolkata. I have been to Dumdum in Kolkata once. We listen to Santhali and Hindi songs on the phone, watch dances, see movies.”

Ramesh Hansda, tribal leader and BJP state committee member, says social media has become a “curse” in spreading the child-lifting rumours. “Social media is new here and the youth are attracted to it. They believe what social media says is true. When the messages and images of ‘child lifter’ started circulating, they believed them.”

Tribals say they approached police soon after the rumours first spread, but were turned away. On May 9 and 10, they claim, some “child-lifters” were even caught near Nagadi village, but police still didn’t listen. However, they could not give details of these alleged child-lifters. Soon parents started keeping their children indoors, and many stopped them from going to school.

Gurucharan Mahato, headmaster of Govindpur middle school, located just a kilometre from where the lynchings happened, says, “Parents were scared. Some of my students also told me about the rumours.” About 15 km away Govindpur, in Uttar Kamardi village, tribals talk of spending nights on guard for the past month with bow and arrows and lathis, to keep away child-lifters. Uma Murmu, a mother of three, whose husband works as a daily wager, says she takes her children along even when she goes to the village well.

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Advertisement placards of Bikas Ceptic tank at Nagadi village. The youths who were lynched visited the area to put up placards but were lynched as child lifters. (Source: Express photo by Subham Dutta)

Pratibha Murmu, the mukhiya of Govindpur village, says rattled by the rumours, they had planned a gram sabha on the issue on May 18, which got scrapped when the lynchings took place hours earlier. “There is fear and anger among the tribals,” she says. “In my area and most others, children have either stopped going to schools or are being escorted everywhere by their parents. During afternoons, mothers don’t want their children to play or loiter around.” Murmu adds that they are now holding regular meetings with villagers.

On May 12, two people, including a tribal, were killed by angry tribals on fears of child-lifting in Jadugora and Asomboni. Still, the police did little apart from recovering the bodies. Sini Soren, the mukhiya for two consequetive terms at Uttar Kamardi village, rues that all this could have been avoided. “Police and administration should have taken the matter seriously from the beginning.”

***

The child-lifting rumours also fanned anger that had already been building among tribals over changes to two land laws by the BJP government. At the end of 2016, the Das government had tabled Bills to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT Act) 1908, and the Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act (SPT Act) 1949, despite massive protests.

The state government has said the amendments are meant to only allow acquisition of tribal land for building infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and educational institutions, while keeping the landholders’ ownership intact. Tribal groups and the Opposition, however, say the dilution of laws will pave the way for the government and private parties to gradually take over tribal land.

There have been rallies in various parts of Jharkhand on the issue. Even without the Opposition backing, restive tribal have been holding silent village meetings. “The flame is spreading in villages over the amendment of CNT and SPT. The government said the land will remain with tribal, but how?” says Ratan Tirkey, a tribal leader and member of the state Tribal Advisory Council. “I asked the CM to call all traditional tribal leaders to explain their initiative to the public. There is a lot of confusion, anger and insecurity among tribal.”

BJP leader Ramesh Hansda, however, accuses Opposition leaders of misleading the tribals. “The state is witnessing development and the Opposition has no other issue. Some leaders are giving provocative speeches where they are saying that the government will snatch tribal land and that IPC and CrPC is not for tribals. Some youths are getting brainwashed,” he says.

***

Since the lynching, Shobhapur and Nagadi villages are deserted, with police hunting for the seven accused in the May 18 lynching. However, it hasn’t diminished the fears of the tribal. “So many children have been stolen from our villages,” says 70-year-old Barsha Murmu, among the few left behind in Nagadi. “We never let our children out of our sight now, even during the day. No child has gone to school from here in the past month.”

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Charred remain of a car on which the lynched youths ware travelling. (Source: Express photo by Subham Dutta)

Talking about May 18, she adds, “Everyone was so scared, the youth would patrol every night. One such evening, the outsiders were spotted and killed.” Anta Tudu, the tribal headsman of Shobhapur village, says he tried to stop the lynching. “In the wee hours, everyone shouted bachcha chor. We ran to the spot to find a few hundred people already there.

Everyone thought the rumors were true. I tried to make them understand, but failed. More people came from other villages within minutes because they too were wide awake. And then they killed the outsiders.” About 100 km away, in Nomail village in West Singhbhum district, Humdo Banding and his wife Monica are celebrating one happy ending. Last Tuesday, their 17-year-old daughter was restored to them after four years. In a repeat of Budhi’s daughter’s story, and of stories of countless girls like her, the teenager had been taken to Delhi to work as a domestic worker before she was reported “missing”. “We had trusted a neighbor, who told us she would get good education and even earn in Delhi.”

Monica says they left no stone upturned to find her. “Earlier this year, the Delhi Police rescued some trafficking victims and sent them to Ranchi.” One of them was their daughter. Jaideo Kardi, the center co-coordinator for Childline in Chaibasa, says they got her back to her parents on May 23. “We had almost lost hope,” says Monica. The 17-year-old remains in shock and hardly wants to leave home now. Neither do Monica’s other five children.

State tops in rescuing trafficked kids, but number of cases on rise

By Dwaipayan Ghose, TNN, Kolkata:

There’s both good and bad news this anti-trafficking day for the state. Even as Bengal continues to dominate others as far as trafficking cases are concerned — the state has alone registered 44% of India’s total trafficking cases in 2016 — it has also managed to rescue the highest number of missing children between 2012 and 2017.

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According to data released by the ministry of home affairs in Parliament on July 25, the state has rescued a total 46,152 missing children between 2012 and 2017, the highest in the country.

The recovery rate, though, is far from encouraging. While the rate was more than 73% in 2014, this has dropped to 67% last year. The state hopes that by the end of this year — with several state agencies and departments working in tandem — the recovery rate can be taken to around 75%.

The report also focusses on the huge rise in trafficking cases in the state each year. In 2014, a total of 1768 trafficking cases were registered in the state. But the actual number of women and kids trafficked was 1881 (In some cases complaints against more than one victim were registered). Of them, 1492 were rescued.

Similarly in 2015, the total number of registered trafficking cases rose to 2099. But, the actual number of women and kids trafficked was 2460, of which 1813 were rescued. In 2016, the total number of trafficking cases rose to a staggering 3579.

Not all NGOs like Shakti Vahani see this in a negative light. “The fact remains that even a few years back, there was hardly any effort to trace trafficked children. Now, apart from CID, cops in districts like South 24 Parganas, which witnesses the maximum number cases, are reacting positively,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini.

Sources said the trafficking gangs target “aspiring” girls from poor families from underdeveloped areas like the Sunderbans and force them into prostitution. “We want to crush their network here,” said an IG level officer at Bhawani Bhavan.

Besides South 24 Parganas, their syndicate is suspected to have been involved in the trafficking of girls from Nepal and remote areas of Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Assam and Andhra Pradesh, among other states.

It was in this backdrop that child protection officials from Haryana, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand attended a four-day workshop — held at Diamond Harbour — to understand the dynamics of human trafficking in Bengal.

Couple accused of trafficking HUNDREDS of girls for brothels are arrested in joint sting by Delhi and West Bengal police

By Chayyanika Nigam and Debbie White For MailToday:

  • Before their arrest, the pair had been living a lavish life in Delhi
  • During the police investigation, it was revealed that minors who were trafficked from West Bengal were then sold to brothels in Delhi and Agra
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A couple in their late thirties who have allegedly trafficked more than 500 girls, mostly from West Bengal over the past eight years, are now in police custody.

The arrest of the pair, named as Pinki and Radhey, was made by the Sunderban police in West Bengal along with Shakti Vahini, an NGO working for anti-human trafficking.

They received help from the Delhi Police in arresting the couple at their rented accommodation on Friday.

They had been living a lavish life in Delhi’s trans Yamuna’s Geeta Colony area.

A West Bengal Police official said: ‘The couple has been living in the area for the past few years.

‘However, it is not their permanent residence. Whenever a gang member was arrested or any girl trafficked by them was rescued, they would change their hideout and used to go underground for a few weeks before returning to their residence in Geeta Colony.’

During the investigation, it was revealed that the couple used to traffick the girls from West Bengal, who were then sold to brothels in Delhi and Agra.

According to sources, the accused couple has two daughters, who stay at their grandparents’ house in Delhi.

A senior officer explained: ‘They have been intentionally kept away so that they do not get affected from the dirty business they do.’

On June 3, Mail Today reported on a rescue operation centred on six Muslim teenagers, from the Sundarbans area, who had been trapped by a prostitution syndicate.

They were lured with an offer of being taken on a tour to Agra city.

Tathagata Basu, Superintendent of Police, Sundarban, said: ‘When a 19 year old girl was trafficked to a brothel in Agra she managed to call her parents.

‘The police then arrested a lady named Meena, who used the alias Meenu (42), along with her two henchmen — Faraq and Kalimuddin Seikh. During a joint interrogation, they (the accused) informed us about the kingpin Pinki.’

He added that the police had undertaken a technical surveillance of Pinki’s phone number, which had been revealed during raids in Delhi and Bengaluru.

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The Superintendent said: ‘They (the accused) are in police custody and will be sent to West Bengal Police on transit remand. After that they will appear in the city’s court on Saturday.’

Rishi Kant, co-founder of anti-human trafficking NGO-Shakti Vahini, described the couple’s arrest as a ‘big catch’.

‘They are among the main source of trafficking from West Bengal,’ he alleged.

Mail Today has previously exposed the modus operandi following by the arrest of the henchmen of this racket.

Gang members obtained mobile numbers of these girls from the mobile shopkeepers. They were then contacted and lured for a job before being trafficked.

São Paulo Joins New Delhi as World’s Worst Mega city for Women Rape

BY NITA BHALLA AND KARLA MENDESThomson Reuters Foundation: 

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Five years after the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi, the Indian capital was on Monday paired with Brazil’s São Paulo as the world’s worst mega city for sexual violence against women in a poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The December 2012 attack of a 23-year-old woman was a watershed in the fight for women’s rights in India, the world’s largest democracy, prompting thousands to take to the streets demanding action against rising sex attacks.

The public outcry not only forced authorities to strengthen gender laws, establish speedy courts for rape and set up a fund for rape victims, but also opened up the conversation on sexual violence in the largely conservative, patriarchal nation.

However Delhi – a metropolis of more than 26 million people – remains known as India’s “rape capital”.

And alongside São Paulo, it came joint bottom in the survey when experts on women’s issues were polled about the risk women run of encountering sexual violence in 19 different megacities.

“I’m not surprised by the results as they’re based on perceptions. India and Brazil have seen a lot of media attention on sexual violence in recent years,” said Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, head of U.N. Women in India who also worked in Brazil.

“Sexual violence in both these cities is, of course, a reality, but there isn’t any definitive data to suggest that rates are higher in Delhi and São Paulo than any other city.”

The survey asked 380 experts in cities with populations of more than 10 million to assess the risk of sexual violence and harmful cultural practices to women, as well as rank women’s access to health care and economic opportunities.

The Egyptian capital Cairo was rated the most dangerous city for women overall and rated third worst for sexual violence, followed by Mexico city and Dhaka. Tokyo was seen as the safest city for women in terms of sexual violence.

High-profile Rapes

Public awareness on sex attacks in Delhi has surged since the Delhi bus attack and thrown a global spotlight on gender violence in the world’s second most populous nation.

Indian newspapers offer a daily array of sex crimes. Girls molested in school, professional women raped by taxi drivers while commuting home, village teens duped, trafficked and sold to brothels in the red-light districts of cities.

Brazilians are fed a similar diet, with multiple reports of assaults on women and girls in São Paulo – Brazil’s most populous city with 21 million people, according to U.N. figures.

In September, thousands of Brazilian women took to social media to demand better support and access to justice after a series of sex attacks on buses where the accused were released due to a lack of evidence.

In one case, the released man was re-arrested two days later after he was accused of attacking another woman on a bus.

“I do not believe in the system. If I file a police report, I’m afraid the accused will come after me,” said Clara Averbuck, a writer who was assaulted by a taxi driver and started an online campaign – #MyAbuserDriver – that went viral.

Checkpoints, Safety Apps

In India, authorities have been forced to act.

This includes stricter punishments for gender crimes, a 24-hour women’s helpline and fast-track courts for rape cases as well as a fund to finance crisis centers for victims.

Women’s desks in many of the city’s police stations have been established, thousands of police received gender sensitization classes, and there is increased patrolling, surveillance and more checkpoints across Delhi at night.

Companies, charities, students and even individuals have also launched countless initiatives – from smart phone safety apps and gender lessons for taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers to women’s self-defense classes and female cab services.

Voracious media reporting on sex crimes in both countries has helped break the silence, shame and fear of rape, but reports of sex crimes continue to rise.

There were 2,155 rapes recorded in Delhi in 2016 – a rise of 67 percent from 2012, according to police data.

São Paulo had 2,287 rapes reported in July this year compared to 2,868 in all 2016, according to government figures, but Brazilian think-tank, the Institute of Applied Economic Research, estimates only 10 percent of rape cases are reported.

Gislaine Caresia, coordinator of policies for women at São Paulo’s city hall, said authorities were looking for private partners to implement a project to track violence against women which could help indicate how to target the crime.

“Everyone has this perception that domestic and family violence has increased but we do not have specific data of it,” Caresia told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In a slum in Delhi’s outskirts, auto-rickshaw driver Suresh sits on a bed in a one-roomed concrete house, telling how his teenage sister was dragged to a nearby wasteland and raped by a neighbor as she walked home from college in March.

“This city is unsafe. We know it is, but what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to lock her up?,” he said. “We see the stories every day in the news. Nothing has changed since the Delhi gang rape. Nothing.”

Authorities attribute the surge in numbers to more victims reporting crimes, rather than more sexual violence occurring.

Activists say it is probably a combination of both.

Campaigners said sex attacks were often not reported due the “dishonor” associated with rape, as well as a lack of faith in a male-dominated, often insensitive police and judicial system.

“For too long, the perpetrators have acted with a sense of impunity. Certainty of punishment is the best deterrent,” said Ravi Kant, a supreme court lawyer and activist from Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based charity that supports victims.