India: Caste Members Demand Justice for Rape Victim
Thursday, November 08, 2012 12:50 PM

Eight or more men assaulted a 16 year-old girl in the northern state of Haryana for almost three hours and threatened to kill her if she spoke up about the crime. The girl is a Dalit, a member of a low-caste group while her attackers are from a higher caste that dominates power in the village. But because the rapists took and shared cell phone videos in the village, word of the rape reached the girl’s father who committed suicide. As a result, Dalits demanded justice. However, an initial response in the community was denial, followed by denouncing the media to blaming the victim.
 
In India girls from low castes are the most vulnerable. Victims often remain silent to avoid bringing shame on their families. In a past six years the number of rapes has increased by 25%. Some analysts point to demographic changes as a reason for the increase. In Haryana, one of India’s most entrenched areas of traditional patriarchy, abortion of female fetuses has resulted in the worst gender imbalance in the country with 861 females for every 1000 males. In addition to the gender imbalance, more women are attending school, in the workforce and choosing their own husbands. This new visibility of women in society is seen as a threat and a challenge to young men.
 
Jagmati Sangwan, president of the Haryana chapter of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association, decried the blame-the-victim mentality. She stated that “They are diverting attention from the crime and the criminals, and the root causes.” Although poor rape victims suffer a life of stigma and have little chance for justice, public anger is becoming more visible and small protests have taken place across the state.