The Nirbhaya fund, an act of publicity?

Six years after, men, women and kids alike protested the lax laws and their enforcement for sexual assault in India, but how much has it changed? Rape cases are reported every week, without consequences. These instances are cruel and too brutal to explain to a kid, yet girls across the country are going put through these scarring and life-threatening experiences.

I was 14 when my peers around the country left their houses to participate in a mass protest. We yelled at the patriarchy and marched in hopes of making a difference, in the biggest democracy in this world. We, as a society needed to tell our representatives that we need better laws. Our country had to do better for its young; it had to ensure that women of all ages, were safe. Safe didn’t mean stay at home but for them to be able to make their own decisions about clothes, activities, and modes of transportation and yet be expected to go back home, without being sexually assaulted.

We focused on the laws, and the government acted on it and established the Nirbhaya fund. But as we now know, this step was barely a step at all.

How was it budgeted?

Nirbhaya Fund was announced by the Finance Minister in his 2013 budget speech, with Government contributing Rs. 1000 Crores for empowerment, safety and, security of women and girl children. The Fund is administered by Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry. Since 2013 when the fund was first established, various variations of budgets have been published. Delhi police were allocated Rs. 7,000 Crore to put towards women’s safety in the city, yet it remains one of the most dangerous cities in the world for women. In the 2013 Union budget, railways were granted funds for installing cameras in public areas and to hire help for keeping a close watch, yet women are in a constant state of fear and tragedy. While reading through coverage of these funds, budgets, and proposals, a common theme is a potentiality. The promise of a “new tomorrow” and plans and sketches and speeches. Yet, more than half a decade later, our country stands just where we were.

Where is the fund now?

In September of 2017, it was reported, by NDTV that the supreme court wasn’t satisfied with the management of the Nirbhaya fund. It was set up as an act of public relations, but when it came down to the logistics, nothing was confirmed. The fund had a name and huge digits attached to it, without a scripted protocol or norms, to its use. The small percent of the money being used is not well reported, it is changing hands without making an impact. In 2018 an analysis showed that less than 30% of the fund was ever even put to use, for the better or not. Victims are unaware of their rights or are asked to not speak in the name of shame and embarrassment. Our society chooses to make excuses for the aggressor and victimize the victim even more.

With much of our population believing that a woman’s clothes dictate her safety, it is no surprise that our sexual assault rates haven’t gone down. A woman’s security and equality includes her freedom to choose, her freedom to make her own decisions. It is not restrictive to physical safety.

Graph made by the author using the most recent comprehensible data available.

About the Author

Vidhatri Pattapu is a feminist and sociology undergraduate student. Interested in making this world a more equal and safe space for people of every gender, race, ethnicity, and nationality.