IntelBrief: Violence Against Women in India
Bottom Line Up Front:
- On May 7, a 17-year old woman was raped and burned in Jharkhand, India.
- On May 4, also in Jharkhand, a 16-year old woman was burned to death after having been kidnapped and raped by a group of men who were ordered to do sit-ups as punishment.
- Like many countries, India is struggling with endemic violence against women, with most cases unreported.
- Violence against girls and women is not just a moral concern, it is a national security concern as well.
On May 7, in the Pakur district of the Indian state of Jharkhand, a 17-year old woman was raped and then set on fire, the latest in a string of high-profile attacks against women in a country where sexual violence is significantly underreported. This attack follows a May 4th attack in Jharkhand in which a group of men set fire to the house of a 16-year old woman who had earlier accused them of raping her. The woman was burned to death; the men were reportedly angry at having been sentenced by a local judge to ‘100 sit-ups’ and a fine of approximately 50,000 rupees ($750). Such sentences are a reminder that, while reporting and awareness of sexual assaults increased in India since a 2012 rape and murder set off large protests, the legal punishments for such violent crimes are pitifully meager. There have been recent efforts to increase the punishment for rape. When it returns from recess, the Indian Parliament is excepted to consider a measure to introduce the death penalty in rape cases where the victim is 12 years or younger.
In 2012, the long-standing issue of sexual violence against women exploded onto the national scene with the rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi. The brazen attack set off large protests and a much-needed national dialogue on protecting the safety of women in India. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crimes against women increased 34% between 2012 and 2015. Some of the increase might be due to an increase in reporting, but the overall trend is one in which violence against girls and women remains one of the country’s most pressing challenges.
India is still struggling with the aftermath of the January 17 rape and murder of a young girl in the town of Kathua, in Jammu and Kashmir. The 8-year old child was a Muslim and the accused are Hindu; the crime has exacerbated long-simmering tensions between the majority Hindu population and the minority Muslim population in the already contentious Jammu and Kashmir region. A judge has ordered the trial to be moved from the state due to intense publicity. A coalition of Hindu nationalists and local politicians has formed in support of the accused. Given the country’s huge population and extensive geographical reach, it will take a massive and sustained effort to address this national security threat in the world’s largest democracy.
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