In two separate incidents, a 22-year-old woman and a 19-year-old woman have died within a week’s span after being gang-raped in India. Both women were members of the “untouchable” Dalit community, which is the lowest caste in India’s caste system. The two men responsible for the death of the 22-year-old from the Balrampur district were arrested and are being held, and a group of four high-caste men responsible for the death of the 19-year-old from Hathras have also been arrested. The events follow the hanging of four men just months ago for a brutal 2012 gang-rape and signify the continually growing problem of sexual assault and rape within India’s borders. One article read that the country has the “dismal reputation of being one of the worst places in the world to be female.” The National Crime Records Bureau reported that 87 rape cases are reported every day, “figures that rights groups say vastly underestimate the scale of the problem.”
Both deaths have sparked outrage. Two politicians of the opposition Congress Party were arrested as they traveled to see the 19-year-old-girl’s family earlier this week, and police have attempted to clear out protests, prohibiting more than five people from gathering, after violence erupted between police and protestors on Wednesday. The conflict started after officials cremated the 19-year-old girl’s body in opposition to the family’s wishes. Rahul Gandhi, one of the officials arrested, tweeted:
“Uttar Pradesh’s ‘class-specific’ rule of the land has killed another woman. The government said it was fake news and left the victim to die. This unfortunate incident, the death of the victim and the callousness of the government — none of this is fake news.”
Bollywood actors, sports players, and opposition leaders have all taken to social media to condemn the events and call for change. “The horrific gang rape and death of this young Dalit woman once again demonstrates the close relationship between sexual violence and India’s discriminatory caste system,” said Divya Srinivasan, a staff member of gender equality group Equality Now. Leader of the opposition party Priyanka Gandhi Vadra stated, “There is next to no protection for women. Criminals are openly committing crimes.”
Protests are still ongoing, with hundreds gathering in the streets to oppose government corruption and lack of action. An article from The New York Times wrote, “But justice is unlikely: Of the tens of thousands of rape cases reported in India annually, only a handful result in prosecutions.”
The Hathras gangrape victim passed away.— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) September 29, 2020
Speak about the reality of assaults on Dalit women and girls. Connect dots, show larger picture of structural violence against Dalits, Dalit women. Don’t isolate, exceptionalise this case as a gruesome aberration.