Kamla* is a young mother of four. One night while her husband was away for work, she fed her children and put them to bed. When she woke in the morning, her elder daughter came to her crying that Gudiya*, the youngest child, was missing.
This story was shared by Equality Now and Swabhiman Society – an organization providing paralegal support, legal aid and other services to survivors of sexual violence from marginalized communities in Haryana – as part of the launch of their joint report, Justice Denied: Sexual Violence & Intersectional Discrimination – Barriers to Accessing Justice for Dalit Women and Girls in Haryana, India.
At first, Kamla assumed that the six-year-old was playing near their house and went to look for her close by. She searched in vain and eventually reached the next village. It was then that a neighbour confirmed Kamla’s worst fears – Gudiya had been murdered and her body dumped at the side of a road.
The horror of her daughter’s death was too much for Kamla to bear and she fainted. By the time she regained consciousness, the police had already removed Gudiya’s body and Kamla was denied the opportunity to see her child. For five agonizing days, the authorities failed to inform the grieving family about where Gudiya had been taken. They received no support from the police or any other government institution, no arrests were made, and Kamla and her husband had no idea what their legal rights were.
Thanks to intervention from human rights organizations, the police eventually provided Kamla with a copy of the First Information Report (FIR). And because Gudiya was from the Dalit community, human rights activists ensured that a charge was also filed for the commission of a caste-based atrocity, in addition to a rape charge.
Following an investigation, police informed Kamla that Gudiya had been brutally raped and tortured before being killed. A neighbour from a dominant caste was charged and the trial progressed quickly, despite associates of the accused attempting to pressure Kamla’s family not to pursue the case. Within nine months, the perpetrator was found guilty by the court and sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labour. In accordance with the law, the family also received a compensation payment of eight lakhs (approximately USD 11,000).
Although legal justice was achieved, Kamla and her family faced such severe backlash from members of their community for seeking a conviction that they were forced to move from their village. They continue to suffer greatly from the emotional trauma of Gudiya’s death and have not received any counselling or other support services from the government.
*Names have been changed