Pallavi* was 16-years-old and on the way to visit her grandmother when she was kidnapped and gang-raped by 12 young men. They filmed her attack and threatened to share the video if she told anyone.
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.
The perpetrators lived locally and eight were from the dominant Jat caste. Pallavi, who is from the Dalit community, was so fearful that she remained silent for nine days. But eventually, the emotional and physical trauma became too much to bear and she confided to her parents.
Her father Ramesh, a farm labourer, turned to the village elders who questioned the accused. Ramesh then set out with Pallavi to go to the police station to file a FIR (First Information Report). On the way, they were confronted by the gang of rapists, who terrorized the pair and again threatened to spread the graphic footage of Pallavi being abused.
Ramesh and Pallavi returned home without going to the police. Distraught after seeing the video of what his daughter had been subjected to and fearing reprisal from the perpetrators, Ramesh committed suicide that night. The next day, heartbroken with grief, Pallavi went to the police station to report the rape and death of her father.
Four days passed before the police eventually arrested one of the accused men, and it took another four days for officers to detain a further seven of the gang.
Pallavi’s family faced pressure from influential people in their village to withdraw the case. Following threats from the accused, police protection was provided to Pallavi and her relatives. But instead of safeguarding Pallavi, some of them tried to force her into having sexual relations, saying that as she had been gang-raped, “You have had sex with so many people now, so why don’t you have sex with us also”.
Pallavi bravely spoke out about this horrific revictimization by the police and her security personnel was later replaced. Her attack happened in 2012 but to this day, she and her family remain in grave danger. She is now protected by an officer from the Dalit community and she feels much safer.
The case went to court and Pallavi was appalled by the outcome. Only four of the gang were convicted and although they were sentenced to life imprisonment, they were awarded parole and were let out on bail pending an appeal at the High Court. They are now back in jail, but a further four men charged with rape were acquitted, alongside two others who were on trial for harbouring the accused.
Pallavi is now studying law and her fight for justice continues. She is working with Swabhiman Society and is helping other Dalit women and girls who have experienced sexual violence and abuse to get the support and legal protection they deserve.
*Name has been changed