News / Asia

Gang Rape Highlights India's Caste Problem

Members of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) shout slogans during a protest against the gang rape of two teenage girls, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 31, 2014.
Members of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) shout slogans during a protest against the gang rape of two teenage girls, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 31, 2014.
Anjana Pasricha
The rape and murder of two young girls in northern India has highlighted the sexual oppression of low caste women in the country, particularly in its vast rural areas.  The case also demonstrates the serious risks faced by women living in homes without indoor plumbing, which was a campaign issue for the country’s new government.
 
The grisly images of two 14 and 15 year old cousins hanging from a tree in Buduan district of India's Uttar Pradesh state, after they were gang raped and strangled last week sent shock waves through the nation.
 
But a retired police official in the state, S.R. Darapuri, was not surprised at the horrific crime, which targeted teenage girls from a low caste family of farm laborers.  That is because during his 32-year-stint in the poor and backward state, he has witnessed first-hand many such incidents of exploitation of “dalit” community, members of India's lowest caste.
 
“The higher castes they have been exploiting the women of the dalits and the weaker section just as a matter of right.  And sometimes rape is used as a weapon to suppress these sections of society," said Darapuri. "And these sections they are not able to resort to self defense.  The main reason is that they are dependent on the land owning caste and as such they are very vulnerable.”  
 
Victims from low caste

Darapuri, is now an activist working with the Indian human rights group People’s Union for Civil Liberties.  He says his analysis of rape cases in Uttar Pradesh in 2007 showed 85 percent of the victims were low caste, minor girls.   
 
Four of the five men arrested for the crime belong to the politically powerful Yadav community.  They include three brothers who have been charged with rape and murder, and two police officials for attempting to cover up the crime.  The Yadavs are also designated as a backward caste, but are much higher than dalits in the complex caste hierarchy of Hindus.
 
Faced with outrage, India’s new government is resolving to act quickly.  Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, has pledged to set up a national helpline for women and rape crisis centers.  
 
“There is nothing that any ministry or any government can do to prevent people from being violent to each other except give them strong protection and give strong deterrence," said Gandhi. "It is the aim of this government to provide deterrence and protection and we will do that as effectively as we can.”
 
But activists like Darapuri question where such protection will come from.  The latest incident exposes police indifference to the plight of lower castes.  

Police indifference

When the father of one of the victims went to seek police help for the missing girls, he was questioned about his caste.  He says he was abused.  Police did not register the complaint until the next day when angry villagers held protests under the tree where the girls had been hanged.  
 
Darapuri says radical efforts are needed to alter the mindset of those in charge of law and order.  He says police refusal to register criminal complaints from low caste people is common, especially in rural areas.
 
“I have seen all such malpractices of police and anti-common man attitude of police.  I have seen it very closely," said Darapuri. "The police in India is also very much a replica of the society.  The police organization has a culture which suffers from caste prejudices.  Not only in this case, but almost in every case, it is mostly caste-based.  Unless there is a major effort to change the set up and change the attitude of the bureaucracy, their actions are highly influenced by caste and other such considerations.”

The focus is also turning to the state's highest officials.  When questioned about the gang rape, Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav told a reporter, “you have not been harmed, have you?”  Some months ago his father, former chief minister Mulayam Yadav, opposed the death penalty for gang rape, saying “boys will be boys.”
 
Law and order is particularly poor in Uttar Pradesh.  In recent days, the media has reported at least four more brutal cases of rape in India's northern and most populous state.  
 
The gang rape of a 23-year-old student in the Indian capital in December 2012 first put the spotlight on the prevalence of sexual violence in India.  Laws were tightened following public outrage.  But as the latest case reveals, the problem is more complex.
 
The sanitation issue


The two cousins found hanging from the tree were kidnapped when they had gone out into the fields to relieve themselves.  Like three-quarters of rural homes in Uttar Pradesh, their house lacked a toilet.  
 
Bindeshwar Pathak heads a non-governmental group called Sulabh, which has pledged to build 100 toilets in the village.  He says the lack of sanitation routinely exposes women to risks, including harassment and assault.
 
“The problem for them to go outside for defecation, they can go only in darkness, either before sunrise or after sunset," said Pathak. "So women are vulnerable to such types of problems and rape, many cases are reported from different parts of the country.”  
 
The gang rape and deaths of the young cousins is an early wake-up call for India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power on the promise of development.   He has pledged to bring sanitation to every home, saying “toilets first, temples later.”
 
Minister Gandhi says building toilets is a top priority of the government.  It is not an easy task.  Approximately half the country - about 620 million people, do not live in homes with indoor plumbing.  A majority of them are in rural areas.  
 
And even when they are built in Buduan, the mother of one of the girls who was killed tearfully says it will be too late for her daughter and her niece.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: S.R.Darapuri from: Lucknow, India
June 04, 2014 1:42 PM
A very good analysis of the complex problem of rape and caste relation. Actually, Indian society is badly caste ridden and caste bias is reflected in the working of all organs of the society and the government. The higher castes enjoy power over Dalits and other weaker sections of society. As such they are in a position to exploit them and resort to suppression if opposed.

The vulnerability of these sections of society is further aggravated by their total dependence on higher castes as they lack land and other means of production. Hence to salvage them from this condition it is necessary to empower them through distribution of land and giving them alternate employment.

by: Andrew Khiem Nguyen from: USA
June 03, 2014 12:59 PM
The Indians must courageously mention and tackle the root problem, not just wandering around and around. The root problem is the caste hierarchy of Hindus.
India should have no castes or whatsoever, unless It is not a proudly democratic country with all modern technologies.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More