ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Inde: deux sœurs condamnées à un viol collectif
by Agence France Presse - l’Humanité
Translated Saturday 5 September 2015, by
In northern India, two sisters, one of whom is only 15 years old, were sentenced by their village council to be raped and paraded nude as punishment. Their crime? Their brother has fled with a married woman. Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling for the protection of these women.
By Sunday, more than 122,000 people had signed the petition, published online by Amnesty International, in protest against the decision made by an elder council, called khap panchayat, in the state of Uttar Pradesh in the north of India. “An all-male council, and whose members were not elected, gave the order that they be raped and paraded nude, their faces painted black, in punishment for their brother’s wrongdoings”, explains Amnesty.
The two sisters, aged 15 and 23, have fled the village, fearing the violence. Since their house was completely ransacked, the entire family fears for its safety. One of their other brothers, Sumit Kumar, testified to Amnesty: “In the panchayat, the decision of the Jats is final. They won’t listen to us. The police won’t listen to us. The police said that anyone could be murdered now”. Questioned by Agence France-Presse (AFP), Bhagpat’s Chief of Police, Sharad Sachan, maintained that the investigation had yet to reveal any threat of rape of the sisters. “We investigated the accusations and found that the council did not discuss this matter and that the threats were never made against these women”. To obtain protection, one of the two sisters called upon the Supreme Court for aide, for her family, which has fled from their village located in the Bhagpat district.
The family coming from the Dalit community (formerly known as “untouchables”) was pressured to hide after their brother fled with a married woman from a superior caste, stated Vivek Singh, the lawyer representing the oldest sister, who has taken the case to the Supreme Court. The elder council belonging to the “Jats” caste ordered for the rape of the sisters, aged 23 and 15, after the Jats had wrongly accused their brother of abducting a married woman. Amnesty asked Sunday for an investigation into the council’s decision, reminding us that the members of the Dalit community were victims of discrimination.
Although village and elder councils have no legal powers, they hold a significant influence in rural India. In 2011, the Supreme Court of India described the khap panchayats as “Kangaroo Courts” and stated that their decrees were illegal. Their detractors accused them of issuing vigilante justice and turning a blind eye to “honour crimes” against couples who broke from tradition. Last year, one of the councils sentenced a woman to gang rape for having a relationship with a man from a different community.