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Global Development Institute

What factors can explain the rise and inter-state variation in crimes against women in India?

Geetika Dang, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha


This paper focuses on two related questions: (i) What are the factors associated with huge inter-state variation in crimes against women (CAW) in India? (ii) Why have such crimes risen between 2001 and 2015? As answers to these questions lie in the interplay of affluence of a state, religion, demographics (including female/male ratio), employment opportunities for women, their literacy, rural/urban population ratio, size of the pool of potential male perpetrators of such crimes, alcoholism, and other state indicators (such as quality of governance in the state and level of media exposure), we carried out a detailed econometric analysis that allows us to assess their individual and joint contributions to serious crimes against women and rape over time and across states. The present study builds on the literature in important ways, as much of the existing literature is either dated and/or lacks analytical rigour. Our study relies on more recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau for the period 2001–2015 and uses rigorous econometric methodology. While crimes against women occur across different locations and cultures, their forms and frequency vary. Specifically, there are significant differences between rural and urban populations, and between Hindus and Muslims. The higher the sex ratio, the lower is the incidence of both CAW and rape. Alcoholism increases the incidence of rape despite the ban on sale of liquor in certain states. Exposure to media has two effects: one is better reporting of crimes and the other, perhaps more importantly, is a deterrence of crime. Our analysis shows that the better reporting effect dominates crime deterrence effect. Governance – especially enforcement of law and order and legal provisions for protection of women against violence – makes a difference: an inverted U relationship is found, in which the incidence of rape first rises with improvement in governance, and then declines.


Sexual violence, rape, affluence, sex ratio, rural, urban, media exposure, religion, India


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