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Swift action sought in Dalit girls’ rape case in India

May 30, 2014

Amnesty International India has urged authorities to show urgency in bringing the perpetrators to justice in the brutal gang rape of two Dalit sisters in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

New Delhi/ Badaun: In the wake of the gang-rape and murder of two teenage Dalit girls in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, Amnesty International India has urged authorities in Uttar Pradesh to ensure that the gang-rape and murder are impartially investigated, and those responsible are swiftly brought to justice. They must also hold accountable any police personnel found to have refused to register or investigate complaints.

This incident is a gruesome reminder of the violence that Dalit women and girls still face in India, Amnesty International India said today. According to Divya Iyer, Senior Researcher, Amnesty International India, Dalits across India – and Dalit women in particular - face multiple levels of discrimination and violence, despite the existence of constitutional safeguards and special laws. “Members of dominant castes are known to use sexual violence against Dalit women and girls as a political tool for punishment, humiliation and assertion of power,” she said.

The girls - aged 14 and 16 – went missing on the night of 27 May. They had gone to a field to relieve themselves because they did not have access to a toilet at home. The father of one of the girls says he sought the help of the local police to find them, but the policemen on duty refused to register or investigate the complaint and slapped him instead. The next morning, the bodies of the girls were found hanging from a tree near their houses. Autopsies indicate that both girls had been gang-raped and strangled.

The police have arrested two men from a dominant caste on suspicion of being involved in the gang-rape and murder, and are searching for more suspects. A police constable has been suspended for dereliction of duty, and another arrested.

Crimes against Dalits are often not properly registered or investigated, conviction rates are low, and there is a large backlog of cases. Police are also known to collude with perpetrators from dominant castes in covering up crimes by not registering or investigating offences against Dalits.

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities across India is one of the most serious threats to the safety of women and girls in India who are then forced to practice open defecation, making them more vulnerable to violence.

More than 600 million people – over half of India’s population – defecate in the open. To address this issue, the UN on Wednesday launched a global campaign to end open defecation, particularly focusing on countries like India and Bangladesh which top the list of countries which account for two-thirds of the population practicing open defecation in the world.

India is obligated under international law to take appropriate and effective measures to prevent and punish all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. “India’s new government must take immediate and far-reaching measures to protect Dalit women’s rights to safety and dignity, and end impunity for crimes against them,” Divya Iyer said.

(With inputs from Amnesty International India)


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