Our dilemma here is that we don’t know if the mainstream press reports accurately and we don’t know if local officials are busily covering up.
But the fact that Meenakshi Kumari and her sister feel they are in danger should bring state protection to their aid regardless.
Their lives would be in danger in their local village whatever the case. Villages in countries like India don’t take kindly to anyone drawing negative attention to them. Meenakshi would probably be murdered if she went back to her village, as state officials are proposing.
The refugee protection system in our countries is in place to help women like Meenakshi and her sister. But first – unfortunately – she has to make it to our shore.
‘Ordered rape’ of Indian Sisters Sparks International Outcry
Tania Kahut, Global News, Aug. 31, 2015
Two sisters in India have allegedly been sentenced to be raped as a punishment for their brother’s action of eloping with a married woman.
TORONTO — Hundreds of thousands of people have signed an Amnesty International petition protesting an “abhorrent punishment” for two sisters allegedly sentenced to be raped and paraded naked through their community as punishment for the actions of their brother, who eloped with a married woman from an upper caste.
Amnesty International’s petition demands local authorities intervene in the order, made by an unelected, all-male village council. The veracity of the order, and the existence of the council itself, have been contested since the story became public.
The women, 23-year-old Meenakshi Kumari and her 15-year-old sister, are from a village in India’s Baghpat district. The sisters fled their community in May out of fear; on July 30 the khap panchayat, or village council, made its decision.
Khap panchayats are generally made up of groups of elderly upper-caste men “who prescribe rules for social behaviour and interaction in villages,” according to Amnesty International. The groups have no legal status.
Meenakshi has since asked India’s Supreme Court for protection, according to the Times of India. The woman told the court that state police have not helped her family, and accused officials of harassing them. The court has asked the local government for a response on the case.
“Act now to demand that this disgusting ruling is not allowed to happen,” states the online petition’s webpage.
The petition, which had achieved its goal of 200,000 signatures as of Aug. 31, urges the Principal Secretary of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh to:
– take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of Meenakshi Kumari, her sister, and the rest of their family, in accordance with their wishes, and ensure that they are able to return to their home;
– carry out a swift, full and impartial investigation into the orders passed by the khap panchayat to rape the sisters, and, where sufficient evidence exists, prosecute the suspects;
– ensure the safety of the woman from the dominant caste family, and take necessary precautions to prevent any violence against her.
It appears the organization’s efforts have made some headway: the Times of India reported Monday that the area’s chief minister ordered that the sisters and their family be provided full protection.
The same article states that locals have denied the sentence was ever handed down, or that any such council exists. However, this is not the first case in the country where rape has been ordered as a penalty.
In July 2014 a 14-year-old girl was ordered raped after the girl’s brother was accused of groping a local woman. The woman’s husband raped the girl in the nearby woods.
In January of 2014 a council of elders in West Bengal state ordered the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman as punishment for falling in love with the man from a different community.
The rights of women in India and the sexual violence they face has been in the spotlight since a woman’s fatal gang rape in December 2012 sparked international outrage. The 23-year-old student was attacked on a bus while on her way home after seeing a movie with a friend. Recently the case made headlines again when one of her attackers said in a controversial jailhouse interview that the victim would not have been killed had she not fought back, adding “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”
With files from the Associated Press
One of the Indian women sentenced to be gang-raped speaks of her fear
One of the sisters sentenced to be gang-raped in India has spoken out about her terrifying ordeal.
Meenakshi Kumari, 23, and her 15-year-old sister fled her village after the elders decided they were to be gang-raped as punishment for their brother who ran away with a married woman.
She now lives in fear that someone will come for them and bring them back to the village in Baghpat within India’s Uttar Pradesh state, to face the vile form of ‘justice’.
‘How will we ever return home or to our village? If we ever return they will harm us or rape us. If not today then in the future,’ she said.
She believes their escape will have ‘humiliated’ the un-elected elders, claiming that they will ‘not forget this humiliation. They want their revenge’.
The trouble started because the girls’ brother, 25-year-old Sumit Kumar, is of a lower caste than the woman he ran away with.
The family has appealed to India’s Supreme Court from their hiding place, begging to be saved from the horrific punishment.
Despite the constant fear, Meenakshi says she doesn’t blame her brother for his actions.
‘Loving someone is not wrong,’ she said.