Women’s organizations in India are outraged over increasing use of rape as a means of intimidation and punishment. “Not only is there an escalation in the number of rapes, but in the perversity of crimes against women,” said Indu Agnihotri, from the Centre for Women’s Studies.
The situation is worse in the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where caste and gender divides are explicit. Judges have acquitted rapists due to their high caste status, stating that the rape of a lower-caste woman could not have taken place. “Lower-rung police officials are not responsive and either do not register complaints or falsify or delay them,” said Kokila Vyas of the National Commission for Women (NCW) in India.
Women who are working for social justice often face the greatest risk of being raped. In 1993, an activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Gujarat who resisted expulsion from her land was gang-raped by police. A lower-caste woman who was leading an anti-liquor movement was stripped, led around naked and raped by men working for the liquor lobby. Land owners and members of the security forces also rape women of lower caste regularly, as a means of subordinating the women.
Women’s groups are crying out for change. “If they think they can silence us with rape, they are mistaken. We will never take it lying down. We are now stronger than ever before,” stated activist Sumli Bai.