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

Sources: Fox News, Religion News, Time, NY Times
Photo: Asia Society

Uttar Pradesh is one of India’s poorest states, with the most recent poverty rate estimate by the Planning Commission of the Indian Government at 29.6%. As such, in order for India to continue to grow, the country must reduce the poverty rate in its poorest states. Proper health and nutrition are crucial to eliminating poverty and are why food security is such a focal point of poverty reduction advocates. The role food plays in poverty reduction is also why advocates worldwide have called for the right to food to be recognized universally.

On September 23, 2013, India’s Parliament enacted the Food Security Act. The act is aimed at ensuring that millions of low-income population groups are provided with nutritious food. The legal authority for the act was derived from Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which establishes the fundamental rights to nutritious food and life. Despite the clear benefits, implementing the bill has been surprisingly difficult in some areas.

The Indian National Congress recently protested against Uttar Pradesh’s failure to implement the Food Security Act. During the protest, 100 Congressmen, including senior leaders, were arrested as police charged a mob of party workers trying to forcibly enter the Uttar Pradesh Assembly premises, reports Business Standard. Union Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal demanded that the act be implemented, claiming that the people of Uttar Pradesh had been left out of receiving benefits.

Uttar Pradesh has delayed implementation of the Food Security Act until July 2014, citing the massive cost as the reason for the delay. According to Zee News, President Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in India stated that the act cannot be implemented until the central government in India is ready to bear the entire cost.

The same day as Congress’s protest, the Uttar Pradesh government released a statement, indicating that it had prepared a road map to implement the National Security Act. According to Business Standard, Principal Secretary of Food and Civil Supplies Deepak Trivedi explains that steps have been initiated in Uttar Pradesh on the provisions of the Food Security Act. Officials in Uttar Pradesh have been given instructions to make the implementation of the Act a priority.

– Cavarrio Carter

Sources: Business Standard, The Indian Express, Zee News, Government of India Planning Commission
Photo: Forbes India

World Bank Helps India_opt
Akhilesh Yadav is more than just a cool name; he’s the Chief Minister of India’s Uttar Pradesh and has recently sought monetary assistance of more than $3.5 billion from the World Bank Group over the next three to five years.

To illustrate India’s need more clearly, Minister Yadav took World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on a tour of Uttar Pradesh. Home of the Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh is also home to the largest number of impoverished people in all of India – a country which has an estimated 37% of people living below the country’s poverty line. With India’s urban population expected grow by 10 million each year, states such as Uttar Pradesh are in dire need of assistance.

After seeing the poverty in India’s most impoverished state firsthand, Kim agreed that helping Uttar Pradesh and other Indian states is in line with the World Bank’s mission of eliminating global poverty. Among the goals the World Bank supports is the national mission to clean the Ganga River. The World Bank will be contributing $1 billion. The money is to be dispersed through five of the basin states. This contribution supports an existing Indian program: the National Ganga River Basin Project. The Ganga River’s basin community supports more than 400 million Indians, about one third of the population, and is India’s most important river.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: The World Bank