Campaigners demand government action on epidemic of caste-based sexual violence in Uttar Pradesh
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Campaigners demand government action on epidemic of caste-based sexual violence in Uttar Pradesh

Over 75 human rights organizations sign open letter to Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister over failure to protect Dalit women and girls from caste-based sexual violence.

Dear Chief Minister,

We, the undersigned human rights organizations and civil society partners, work to defend the rights of women and girls and ensure justice for victims and survivors of sexual violence.

We are writing to express our serious concern at the rising number of grave incidents of rape and caste-based sexual violence in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) over the last few months. The horrific crime of gangrape and physical attack committed in Hathras on 14 September 2020, resulting in the death of a young Dalit woman on 29 September has shaken the conscience of the nation and lead to widespread outrage.

Worryingly, the Hathras gangrape incident is one of many recent atrocities of rape, gangrape and murder committed against Dalit women and girls in U.P., with Lakhimpur Kheri district registering at least six such cases in the last 60 days. Most recently, on 30 September, another 22-year-old Dalit woman was raped and murdered in Balrampur district. There are numerous other cases which demonstrate the endemic of sexual violence and caste-based atrocities in U.P., where deep-rooted casteism prevails.

2019 data from the National Crimes Records Bureau shows that ten Dalit women are raped every day in India. U.P. has the highest number of cases of violence against women (59,853) as well as the highest number of cases of sexual assault against girls registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. U.P. also registered the highest number of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Caste persons under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act [SC & ST (PoA) Act], with 11,829 cases.

Despite the serious and brutal nature of these crimes, multiple reports say that U.P. Police have not properly fulfilled their duties and have responded in a careless and discriminatory manner. We would like you to initiate an urgent enquiry into these allegations.

In the Hathras gangrape case, the family of the victim has alleged that nobody was arrested for ten days after the FIR was filed. The U.P. Police have reportedly made claims to the media that it is not confirmed the victim was subjected to multiple rapes. This is extremely concerning given the family maintains that police insisted on the forcible cremation of the victim’s body at around 3am on the night of 30 September, against the family’s wishes and they were not allowed to attend.

In numerous other cases across U.P., rape survivors and families of victims report struggling to get FIRs registered by the police in rape cases, to get cases additionally registered under the SC & ST (PoA) Act, and to obtain police protection to ensure their safety from attacks and reprisals by dominant caste community members and associates of the accused.

Sexual violence survivors and victim’s families face extreme social and community pressure to compromise cases, particularly where the rape is caste-based and committed by a dominant caste perpetrator. Provision of adequate support services to survivors/victims, including police protection, good quality shelter homes, the speedy release of victim’s compensation, and counselling and other rehabilitation services would go a long way in shielding survivors/victims and families from pressure to compromise.

The rising number of rape cases in U.P. is also caused by the culture of impunity which is enjoyed by rapists and perpetrators of caste-based atrocities, particularly those from dominant caste communities such as the Thakurs.

Though a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been set up by you for investigating the Hathras gangrape case, it is not sufficient to only take special measures in a few cases in response to widespread media coverage and public pressure. Systemic changes and reforms are required across U.P.s entire criminal justice system to ensure speedy justice in all such cases. Police accountability needs to go beyond merely transferring officers who are found to be negligent in handling cases as an appeasement measure. Measures must show zero tolerance for any misconduct to deter similar future behaviour and hold perpetrators fully to account.

We urge the U.P. state government to take the following measures:

- The Hathras gangrape case must be fast-tracked so justice is not delayed or impeded. Speedy trials should take place in all such cases.

- Strict action, including through filing of criminal cases under section 4 of the SC & ST (PoA) Act and section 166-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and taking disciplinary action against police officers who refuse to register FIRs, tamper with evidence, push survivors or their families to compromise, or in any way obstruct justice in sexual violence cases, must be taken. Action must go beyond suspending or transferring officers. Systemic reform is needed, including police sensitization and training, and implementation of all recommendations in the 2013 Justice J.S Verma Committee’s report regarding police reforms.

- Immediate protection to survivors/victims and their families in sexual violence cases must be provided, including for the family in the Hathras gangrape case. We also urge the U.P. Government to comply with Supreme Court directions and provisions of the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, including implementing a witness protection scheme in U.P., establishing a Witness Protection Fund, and providing security cover for all victims and witnesses who have received threats or asked for protection during the investigation/trial of complaints of sexual violence.

- Impunity at all levels must be addressed to send a clear message that sexual violence and accompanying violence meant to silence or intimidate survivors or their families will not be tolerated, irrespective of the class, caste or community the accused belongs to.

- Existing laws on sexual violence must be effectively enforced and implemented and adequate resources allocated to combat sexual violence.

- Compensation, psycho-social support, medical care and other relief and rehabilitation services must be provided to all survivors or victim’s families.

We urge you to do everything in your power to send a strong message that sexual violence will not be tolerated irrespective of which community the victim belongs to.

Regards,

Organizational Signatories:

1. Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network (DHRDNet)

2. WAYVE Foundation

3. Equality Now

4. All India People's Forum

5. Anandi-India

6. ANHAD

7. Anyay Nivaran Nirmulan Seva Samiti

8. Apne Aap Women Worldwide India Trust

9. Arisa

10. Bebaak Collective

11. Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA)

12. Buniyaad, Ahmedabad

13. CEHAT

14. Dalit Vikas Parishad

15. Eva Foundation

16. EVIDENCE

17. Feminists in Resistance

18. Food Sovereignty Alliance, India

19. Forum Against Oppression of Women

20. Forum for Justice and Peace

21. Gamana Mahila Samuha

22. Green Madcaps

23. Human Rights Centre for Advocacy, Research & Education (HuRiCARE)

24. Humsafar support centre for women Lucknow

25. Indian Christian Women’s Movement

26. Indian Women Theologians' Forum

27. International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN)

28. Jivan Dhara,

29. Jubeda Ajij Attar

30. Jyothi Jeevapoorna Trust- Archana Women's Center

31. LABIA - A Queer Feminist LBT Collective

32. Maitree

33. Manuski Trust

34. MN350

35. Nagari Hakka Suraksha Samitee

36. National Alliance of People's Movement NAPM

37. National campaign on Dalit Human Rights- DAAA

38. Navjyoti Center, Surkhet, Nepal

39. Nazariya jath

40. Nazariya miraj

41. NDCW-National Dalit Christian Watch.

42. Olakh

43. One Future Collective

44. P.B.V.M

45. Parcham Collective

46. People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)

47. Platform for Social Justice

48. Platform for social justice

49. Pochabhai Foundation

50. Prayas

51. Public Bolti

52. Radha Paudel Foundation

53. Redefy West Bengal

54. Rivesha

55. RTE Forum, Maharashtra

56. Rural and Urban Women’s Association (RUWA)

57. Sachetana

58. SAHAJ

59. Saheli, Delhi

60. Samanvaya

61. Sampada Gramin mahila sangram sanshta.sangli

62. Sampada Gramin Mahila Sanstha

63. Sanchaya Nele

64. Sangram Sanstha

65. Shramajivi Mahila Samity

66. Sisters of Charity Federation

67. Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

68. Swayam

69. TASHI''Building Bridges with Many worlds

70. The Blue Dawn

71. TORANG TRUST INDIGENOUS WOMEN INDIA NETWORK

72. Utthan

73. Vidhrohi Mahila Manch

74. Wada Na Todo Abhiyan

75. Women’s Welfare Center, Pune

76. Youth Against Injustice Foundation

77. वर्षा गुप्ते विश्वस्त समाजवादी महिला सभा महाराष्ट्र

78. विधायक संसद

 

In addition to the organizations listed above, this letter has also been signed by over 2100 concerned citizens.