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The rape and murder of a minor girl in UP under the guise of ‘punishment’ proves again, how we live in a regressive society that barely respects women.
Trigger warning: This post contains details of rape and murder that may be triggering to certain readers.
Amidst a global pandemic in the country, brutal cases of rape still continue to pervade our headlines. The rape and death of a minor girl in Uttar Pradesh (UP) is at the front and centre currently. Post-mortem reports confirmed that the girl was raped then strangled to deal in the Lakhimpur Kheri district in UP.
The two accused, Sanjay Gautam and Santosh Yadav, were arrested within the Isanagar police station limits. They were caught and booked under Section 302 and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code which refers to rape and murder as well as the National Security Act.
According to reports, the men attacked and raped the teenaged girl as a punishment after they found her defecating in the family’s sugarcane field. When she did not return home after disappearing on Friday afternoon, her parents and relatives started looking for her. They noticed track marks that indicated distress which then led them to her body.
However, police have denied that the girl sustained ‘grievous’ injuries on her tongue and eyes that a report had earlier stated. They said that her death was caused by rape and strangulation.
The rape of this teenaged girl is far from yet another story about rape and abuse. It comes at a time when there has been a slew of attacks against minor girls in the state.
Only last week, a six-year-old girl in Hapur was kidnapped outside her home and raped by a man on a motorcycle. In the Gorakhpur district, a teenage girl out on a household errand was accosted and raped in a field overnight by two men. These incidents were also condemned by Congress and SP leaders, especially over the state of law and order in the state.
The conversation has also turned to how abuse and oppression against Dalits have reached a record high since the establishment present Union government in 2014. According to the latest data points consolidated by the National Crime Record Bureau, the number of registered rape and assault cases went up between the years 2017-18.
The conviction of rape only remains at 27.2 percent with most offenders getting away with impunity. On the one hand we have made some headway post Nirbhaya and particularly with the Anti-Rape Bill of 2013. However, despite the many developments of the Bill, rape and assault cases continue to rise largely due to the society’s own understanding of rape.
The connection between rape punishment has been part of a regressive narrative when it comes to discussions about sexual assault, especially in India. It is often used to supposedly enable a woman ‘to behave’ and prevent her from going astray.
This also feeds into the existing entrenched and toxic culture of rape, where we often resort to victim-blaming and shaming. Sexual violence has often been used as a tool of suppression wielded against women. It is often used as a way to establish and solidify obedience and hierarchy. Which, in turn, is reinforced by power structures like patriarchy that already govern our society.
It is also used as a way to punish women especially when they supposedly defy societal norms and expectations. In this case, a young girl’s unassuming actions were used against her in this age-old system of submission and oppression.
The added issue of sexual assault and rape against minors in India also in part, comes from a culture where child marriage was widely practised. It stems from the fact that child marriage was more prominent than it is now, particularly in rural communities. The custom of marrying off young women and girls without their consent was used as a way to justify and legitimise sexual violence.
Once again, such cases, are a mark of how we still continue to deny women their autonomy and respect. But also of how the way women continue to be viewed as objects and puppets who need to constantly bow down to society.
Be it a young child, a young girl, or a grown woman, we continue to be labelled and viewed as playthings. And we continue to exist in a space where respect and basic human dignity does not go both ways.
Picture credits: Still from documentary Amoli: Priceless
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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