LUCKNOW, INDIA — She was still a teenager when a pack of young men pulled her into a car, tortured her and gang-raped her.
The young woman, now a poised student, endured more than three dozen court appearances, six separate trials and endless legal wrangling.
The last of the rapists, the son of a powerful family, was convicted this past spring — 11 years after the crime. During her ordeal she was forced to leave school, was put in a home for runaway girls and even now lives with police protection out of fear that allies of the rapists could exact revenge.
Her supporters say her extraordinary perseverance helped her overcome forbidding legal odds.
“I decided I had a single goal,” said the young woman, the daughter of an illiterate junk dealer: “Justice.”
Violence against women and the number of rapes in India have risen for over a decade — more than two rapes occur every hour on average, one study says — yet activists, attorneys and officials say that female crime victims still face many barriers in the country’s courts. These include poorly trained doctors, callous police, shoddy forensic practices and the delays that permeate India’s judicial system — delays so disheartening that some victims lose their nerve or settle with attackers’ families.
In recent years, India has responded by toughening its rape law and creating fast-track courts to speed prosecution of rape cases and other crimes against women. But these new courts have their own delays — and in some states, strikingly low conviction rates.
In April, when the last of the gang rapists in the case was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the victim put on a pink sari and fed sweets to her joyous family and the activists who supported her during years of demanding action. But the journey is not over.
“I have thought about this continuously,” the young woman said recently. “Why did they do this to me? Why did they ruin my life — just because they had money and I’m poor?”
The victim, about age 13, was walking home from her job as a housemaid with her younger brother one rainy night in 2005 when a car with tinted windows pulled up. Four young men — who ranged in age from about 17 to 19 — were drunk and looking for a girl, one of them later told police. Two got out of the car, forced her in and drove away, ignoring the frightened cries of her brother.
For several hours, the victim said, the young men held her down and tortured her — sodomizing her with a gun and burning her repeatedly with a cigarette lighter. Others joined when they arrived at a remote plot of land, taking her to a dusty workshop ringed by eucalyptus trees, where she was raped on a wooden pallet. Police later recovered strands of her hair, her panties and her sandals at the scene, on land they said was owned by the powerful political family of the alleged ringleader, Gaurav Shukla.
Uttar Pradesh, the northern Indian state where the attack occurred, has a population of more than 200 million, about the same as Brazil. It is poor, deeply patriarchal and criticized for its thuggish political culture, the “Goonda Raj.” Instances of reported rape have increased faster in the state than in the rest of India in recent years, with the number of rapes more than doubling between 2014 and 2015. The leader of its governing political party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, caused a stir two years ago when he suggested that rapists should not be given the death penalty. “These are boys,” he said, “they make mistakes.”
Shukla was 18, cocky, the “destroyed son of a rich man,” as one of his neighbors put it. His attorney says that he was not involved but confirms that he faces separate charges of attempted murder and conspiracy — including a case still pending in what is known as “Gangster Court.”
Shukla’s brother, a lawyer, declined to comment on behalf of the family.
After the assault, the young men dropped the teen on the side of the road, threw down a 20-rupee bill (worth about 30 cents) and drove away. She could barely walk, but eventually found some village women and asked for help. She was in such bad shape that the women first thought she was a ghost.
“I said, ‘I’m not a ghost, I’m human, please help me,’ ” she recalled.
R.K.S. Rathore, the deputy inspector general of police in Lucknow, said he has not forgotten his first sight of the bleeding, limping teen when she was brought to the police station a few hours later.https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/an-indian-gang-rape-victim-went-to-court-for-11-years-but-her-ordeal-continues/2016/08/15/c92075ce-5757-4073-b8c2-b0dc42f54ed0_story.html
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