India’s Sexual Assult Epidemic- Indian PM says: “Rape… Sometimes it’s Right”

(Cross-posted from The Feminist Writer)

Two young girls were hanged from a tree after being gang raped in the fields outside their home in India, renewing a countrywide outcry over sexual violence. When asked to comment on this horrific act, a state minister from Priminister Modi’s ruling party atrociously stated: Rape “is a social crime… Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.”  A statement that aborrently echos society’s unjust view on sexual assault and unfairly resonates unethical implications with India’s Social Caste System.

Last months gang rape of two girls has since prompted hundreds to march against violence towards women, rallying for PM Modi to take a real stand against this national crisis, although sadly, this has not come without a price. News of the forth woman to die in such a way made headlines this morning (June 12), as the women of Uttar Pradesh fought bravely to condemn the brutality of such violence. Surely we cannot deny that these assaults- the rape and murder of four Indian women- are nothing less than a sexual assault epidemic, put simply as a national crisis that will not or cannot end when the country’s own leader allows for such a heartless response to such acts of brutality and hatred.

The family of the 19-year-old found hanging from a tree in a village in northern India says she was raped, and this news comes just one day after another woman’s body was found, in the same way, in a remote village elsewhere in the state.

Tragically, however brutal these killings, they are not isolated events. They are not the first, and nor will they be the last. Such attacks, according to the BBC, have long taken place in Uttar Pradesh, unreported unsurprisingly (remember rape “is sometimes right”), but recent outrage over sexual violence has resulted in an increase in cases being reported to the police (although the word corruption comes to mind, if we take into account the three suspects and two policemen accused of dereliction of duty and criminal conspiracy held over the lynching of the two young girls). Importantly however, the media coverage gained by these reports, allows us however tragically, to raise awareness of such brutality, although clearly the world still has a long way to go.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, with more than 200 million inhabitants, is home to a huge number of poor people, and it is the “poor and the disadvantaged low caste women who are most at risk of such crimes” (BBC News). India must stop denying caste and gender violence.

There is one hauntingly inescapable detail that surrounds these killings: “their deaths were by no means inevitable” (ibid). The cousins- raped and hanged from a mango tree- were members of a Caste System known as Other Backward Classes (OBC), low on the caste hierarchy, leaving them vulnerable (fatally in this case) to the men of the far more privillaged Yadav Caste, who through their ‘power’ gain worryingly even the support of their leader. With no indoor toilets, the girls had gone out into the fields late at night to relieve themselves; sadly, many low caste women must wait until late evening to do this to avoid predators (horrific enough, when you imagine the poor levels of hygiene and sanitation that these women must endure, let alone the fact that they have to consciously avoid using the the bathroom in order to protect themselves from the men who prey on their disadvantages). Sadly this ‘tactic’ does not always work.

When the girls did not return, the father of one went to report the missing children to the police, only to be slapped and sent away by the constable on duty. We must not forget this. Horrendously the caste system of the father fundamentally dictated the way in which the police dealt with the report. Strikingly, if the father had been from a more privileged caste, the girls may have been found before the country brutally allowed them to be murdered.

The last few months have seen their full freight of witch burnings, caste rapes, and acts of terror against women and children from lower castes, not to mention the significant rate of domestic violence and dowry deaths in Uttar Pradesh alone. According to Nilanjana Ray of the New York Times, the recent crimes highlight two significant factors: “the refusal of the chiefly privileged caste police officers to intervene in time to save the lives of victims from less powerful castes, and the determination, however underprivileged, to force a response from an indifferent state and civil society.” After refusing to let down the bodies of their girls until both the authorities and media had payed attention, the families, today, face threats that cynically attempt to pin the killings on them. Such assertions follow the ‘City Rape Case’ Pattern: the intent is to exonerate the accused men and to place the blame onto their own families.

India has a long marked history of overlooking the deliberate sexual violence inflicted on women, as well as ignoring the lynchings and murders of men, women and children from less privileged caste systems throughout the country. One of the most haunting aspects, is that these killings are branded ‘normal’ and fit the general pattern of caste crimes. “The need to end the collective denial is urgent if the country is to acknowledge just how widespread the epidemic of violence is” within India itself.

The Feminist Writer: Soprano. Music Student and feminist. University of Bristol. Identify yourself as a feminist today and you’re automatically assumed to be a man-hating, whinny liberal; we need to challenge this perception. Feminism is misunderstood and it seems important to fight against these misconceptions. @amymarieaustin 

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