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India: Haryana Government must act to end caste-based sexual violence

Dalit survivors of sexual violence in Haryana, India are facing severe obstacles to accessing justice as well as intersectional caste and gender discrimination. The Haryana government needs to take immediate action to improve its response in cases of caste-based sexual violence

The Hathras case, where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang raped by four dominant caste men which resulted in her death in September 2020, led to widespread public outrage across India, throwing a spotlight on the issue of caste-based sexual violence. The Hathras case is just one example of the widespread sexual violence taking place against Dalit women and girls across India.

Swabhiman Society and Equality Now’s joint report, Justice Denied: Sexual Violence and Intersectional Discrimination – Barriers to Accessing Justice for Dalit Women and Girls in Haryana, India, found that Dalit women and girls in Haryana are often denied access to justice in cases of sexual violence due to the prevalent culture of impunity, particularly when the perpetrators are from a dominant caste. They face numerous barriers to accessing justice, including:

  • community pressure to ‘compromise’ the case through extra-legal settlements,
  • intimidation by unofficial village councils (khap panchayats),
  • discriminatory attitudes of the police and other government officials,
  • lack of access to support services, and
  • unscientific and traumatic medical examinations such as the “two finger test”.

The barriers to accessing justice faced by Dalit survivors of sexual violence make it highly unlikely that the perpetrators of sexual violence will be prosecuted or convicted. To address this impunity, the Haryana government needs to take immediate action to improve its response in cases of caste-based sexual violence.

Join Swabhiman Society and Equality Now to call on the Haryana government to ensure:

  • increased police accountability and provision of effective victim and witness protection
  • curtailed community intervention in cases of sexual violence, including by banning khap panchayats
  • improved resourcing and utilisation of existing funds for sexual violence prevention and response programmes
  • effective implementation of laws aimed at protecting caste-based minorities from atrocities and discrimination

UPDATE March 2021: Sexual violence against Dalit women and girls continues to take place in Haryana. In January, Swabhiman Society began supporting a Nepali Dalit women who was gang-raped by 5 men. These men attacked her home at night, tied up her husband and raped her one by one in the presence of her 7-year-old daughter. The gang-rape resulted in the pregnancy of the survivor. While she has filed a complaint with the police, the officials have not yet taken effective action to identify the rapists and have failed to make any arrests so far.

Meanwhile, Rekha, the 16-year-old Dalit girl who was raped in 2020, continues her fight for justice. It was only after months of support from Swabhiman Society and multiple follow-ups with government officials that she has received compensation from the government of INR 500,000 (approx. 6800 USD) to help meet her legal expenses and support her child. The case is currently pending trial and Rekha and her mother will soon give their testimonies in court. However, the family of the accused continue to pressure Rekha and her family for an extra-legal settlement of the case outside the court.