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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid