Last month, two girls were found hanging from trees in India’s Katra village. Another woman claimed she was gang-raped by four police officers. India has had a women’s rights problem for a while now, yet it is only increasing, despite more strict laws. The body of a 19-year-old was just recently found hanging by her scarf from a tree in Uttar Pradesh, making her the state’s fourth female victim in only two weeks.
Rape in India is a rising problem, yet one that is not easily solved. According to official statistics, around 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, though the number is thought to be much higher due to a common fear of punishment and social stigma. Simply, the problem lies in attitude, not a lack of legislation or protection. “Even though the laws are there, many people feel they can get away with anything, an attitude that some of our politicians have gone out of their way to encourage,” said Ranjana Kumari, a prolific women’s rights activist in New Delhi.
Certain politicians have only exacerbated the problem. Earlier this June, Madhya Pradesh state Home Minister, Babulal Gaur (who oversees police,) claimed that rape was a “social crime,” which depended on the man and woman. “It is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.” Gaur’s statements came just months after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav opposed the death penalty for rape, claiming “boys will be boys. Sometimes they make mistakes.”
The most recent victim was thought to have been raped and murdered by two men who she told her family had been bothering her. While they have filed a report claiming their suspicions in her death, the case is basically smoke and mirrors: a district police officer told the New York Times that a preliminary postmortem examination found no evidence to suggest rape.
Unfortunately, this ability for men to “get away” with their crimes is exactly what has caused it to spread to this extremity. “This is not something that is particular for Uttar Pradesh,” said Amnesty International India’s senior researcher, Divya Iyer, on the most recent death. “These sporadic news of rapes bring the issue to the fore, but it is important to see it as a continuum. For every case of rape, there are many more that are not reported, because of the stigma attached and the fear of reprisals. It is important to hold politicians accountable for their statements in order to send the right signals to the community.”
— Nick Magnanti