Friday, May 30, 2014

Shitting in fields leads to gang rape, hanging of Indian girls

This week's posts about the "honour killing" of a 25-year-old Pakistani woman -- by her father and 20 other family members -- may have left the impression that abuse of women is endemic in Muslim (and Sikh) communities. And so it is. But you find the same barbarism in all over south Asia.

In mainly Hindu India, rape is an everyday occurrence, and is rarely reported, even more rarely punished. Not infrequent gang rapes do make the news, but the perps often get off scot-free, for reasons of culture and religion, notably the caste system with which Hinduism has burdened billions of Indians for thousands of years.

A particularly egregious case occurred this week in the village of Katra, in the impoverished northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Two teenage cousins -- members of the lowest harijan (untouchable) caste -- went to a field to relieve themselves, since there was no toilet in their home. ("Open defecation", as Indians call it, is still the norm for almost half of India's billion people.) They were caught with their pants down, literally, by a gang of men who gang-raped them, killed them, and then hanged them from a mango tree. Here's a picture.

The "strange fruit" was still hanging from the tree when the picture was taken because angry villagers refused to allow the bodies to be cut down, as a protest over the inaction of the police, who they said had done nothing to search for the girls when they were reported missing Tuesday evening. Quite understandable in light of what happened next.

The villagers allowed authorities to take down the corpses after the first arrests were made on Wednesday. Police arrested two men from the village and... wait for it... two police officers! Three more suspects are still being sought, or so the police say.

Meanwhile -- yes, there's more! -- police in the nearby town of Etawah have arrested three men for brutally attacking the mother of a rape victim after she refused to withdraw her complaint. The attack followed the May 11th rape of the victim's teenage daughter. A local man was arrested after the mother filed a complaint with authorities, but since the victims were of the lowest caste, the culprit's community felt that they were wrong to have complained.

So five men -- including the father, a brother and a cousin of the accused rapist -- followed the victim's mother away from her house and beat her relentlessly, demanding she drop the accusation. Police arrested three men on Thursday and are looking for two others... so they say. The mother is in critical condition in a local hospital, with numerous broken bones and internal injuries. The whereabouts of the raped girl is unknown, but at least she wasn't left hanging from a tree.

Footnote (31/5/14): If you doubt Walt's figure that nearly half of India's people practise "open defecation", and if you doubt that this poses dangers to women and girls, read "Why India's sanitation crisis kills women" on the BBC News India page. How fortunate for India that it freed itself from the evils of British rule two-thirds of a century ago and no longer has to tolerate such evils as proper toilets and sewers.

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