Civil societies demand for DNA testing in every sexual offence case

As the country witnesses a surge in crime post lockdown, the incidence of sexual offence and rape continues to be the top-most concern for the safety of women and children.Forthe first time ever, prominent voices from across civil societiesare demandinga step up in the use of DNA evidence in rape investigation. Marking the Day of International Criminal Justice, July 17th, also known as the International Justice Day, #DNAFightsRape carries the sentiment of people pledging to make India rape free!The initiativestands to be significant as it calls uponattention of our country leaders to set a target year to free the nation of the rape menace.

In a compelling video, writer, anchor & actor, GitikkaGanju Dharsharesher message saying, “Hurrah to the Prime Minister's vision of building a 5 trillion-dollar economy by 2024. Alongside, the Quality of Life Index for women in India, must also go up. We must set a target for ending the barbaric menace of rape by 2030 and transform India into a rape-free nation, बलात्कारमुक्तभारत. I believe this will happen if and when the number of convictions equal the number of rapes, and speedy and just convictions can only be achieved by using DNA as clinching evidence.”

The most conclusive evidence is the rapist’s DNA, but the awareness of DNA forensics is very low in India and its collection a massive problem. Because in India the woman who gets raped is shamed and considered dirty. She is asked to cleanse herself of the sin by her family. She is washed andher clothes are cleaned or burnt, leading to loss of crucial DNA evidence even before the case is reported. #DNAFightsRape reinforces the message,‘Do Not Wash, Do Not Clean, SAVE THE EVIDENCE’. To get justice,we need DNA and for that we need to save bodily evidence in every sexual offence and rape investigation.

Dr Pinky Anand, Sr Advocate said,“The initiative #DNAFightsRape – Save the Evidence started two years ago and has since then come a long way and gained tremendous momentum. I am happy that I could play a role in this drive trying to create awareness amongst the populace, masses on the importance of DNA evidence, especially in cases of sexual assault and rape. Today, DNA profiling has become one of the most important evidence for detection of crimes like rape and murder, simplifying and easing not just the process of investigations, but often forming clinching evidence in cases where conviction would otherwise have been difficult. Many courts in India are now able to quickly deliver concrete and effective judgments in cases of sexual offences, especially rape because of the veracity and the absolute nature of DNA evidence.”

DNA remains the world’s best crime fighting technology as public figures and subject matter experts from legal, law enforcement, forensics, medical, and public policy fields validate the merit of scientific evidence over ocular evidence in court. The Nirbhaya case is a landmark case as it hugely qualifies the success of DNA evidence.It was effectively used to convict all accused in this case. The law was duly upheld, and justice delivered!

As a matter of fact, more and more courts today are relying on DNA evidence to convict the offender in cases of sexual offence and rape of minors. Law enforcement and medical forensic experts too are realising the need to step up protocols related to DNA collect & test in rape investigations.

“In the last six months, the judiciary has treated forensic DNA results as conclusive evidence. The process is today becoming successful only due to proper and timely collection of biological evidence by the police and medical examiners from the crime scene and the victim’s body following an incident. Over the last two years, owing to the increased awareness of the importance and the impact of DNA evidence, the testing of DNA in criminal incidents has doubled. We must take care of two things, preserve the evidence in a rape case and second, demand for DNA testing. And if we can do this, we will be able to make this city and this country, a safe place for our women and children,” Dr Anandadded.

However, despite growth in the number of profiles being tested, the absolute volume remains low,especially in crimes against women and children. Rising crime, declining conviction rates, and an unprecedented backlog of cases in courts, clearly establishes huge unmet potential for DNA casework in India.Official statistics show a dramatic increase in the number of crimes against women, which haveshot up from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,356 in 2018 – a jump of 34 per cent! As per NCRB data, one woman is raped every 15 minutes in India, whereasonly one in four reported rape cases result in conviction.

Speaking from a global point of view, Tim Schellberg, Founder & President, Gordon Thomas Honeywell—GAnoted,“I am proud to endorse the #DNAFightsRape on the International Justice Day. This campaign will bring much needed awareness of the power of DNA in delivering justiceto rape survivors. This awareness will create the expectation in India that when a rape occurs, DNA will be collected and tested quickly.In the United States and many other countries who were early to mainstream DNA forensics, rape survivors and their families have a general understanding of DNA evidence and they know its value to a criminal investigation. As a result, the culture in these countries is not to clean or wash evidence and pursue medical examination at the earliest. India too would see greater utilization of DNA in sexual assaults if people here made it a top priority. This would not only bring sexual offenders to justice but also act as a strong deterrent to the act of rape”.

Stating the sense of urgency and call to action, Arneeta Vasudeva, Senior Vice President Ogilvy adds, “Rape is a malice that has permeated into this nation’s fabric and is spreading at an alarming rate. With only 1 in 4 rape cases leading to conviction, the future looks grim unless we do something about it. So let’s all on this Day of International Criminal Justice take a pledge to do our part in making India a rape-free country, and a safer community for our women and children.”

To join the movement, use #DNAFightsRape #WherestheDNAand post apicture along with a message to spread the word, MAKE INDIA RAPE FREE!


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