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Cases of rape constantly breaking out in India aren’t news anymore, yet when a pair of sisters was sentenced to rape in northern India during late August this year, the issue shocked the world once more.
A male Dalit eloped with a married noble, thus the local caste council trialed the Dalit sisters to be punished on his behalf. Their faces were smeared black and the women were stripped naked, paraded, raped by other men and eventually exiled out of the village.
According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau of India, approximately 92 women are raped each day. Cases of sexual abuse rapidly rose from 24,923 incidents in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013. Despite the never-ending molesting raising global attention, the situation has not improved at all. Why are Indian women constantly living in terror?
It’s a complex and long story, and the caste system along with the patriarchal structure is to blame. Though the Indian Constitution has expressly stipulated the termination of the caste system and states, “The State shall not discriminate any citizen for religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth,” the caste system is still deeply embedded in the Indian society.
The caste system classifies the people into four sequent classes: Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudras. Castes are hereditary, so according to traditions, trans-caste marriage is prohibited, occupations are specified, and even residence and food varies for each individual caste. Such commandments are gradually fading away in the modern Indian society, yet they are still taken as gospel in rural villages.
A group called, the Dalits, is entirely excluded from the caste system. Given the name, “untouchables,” they are struggling in the lowest level of India’s society. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties in India states that, “Over 85% of rape victims are Dalits. More than 80% of female Dalit victims are under age.”
Lower caste classes are oppressed by the higher in everything. Whether it is social status, income, education and so on, they are in a situation of absolute vulnerability.
This reflects on the safety of females as well. Those of lower caste classes are often not regarded as people; therefore female Dalits tend to be sexually assaulted with no remorse. However, this doesn’t happen all over India. The caste system and other backward concepts are gradually improving in various regions.
The unquestionable patriarchal structure is another contributing factor to the various outbreaks of sexual assaults. The National Family Health Survey conducted in 2005 to 2006 interviewed over 25 thousand women and over 40% of them have been beat by their husbands. The same survey interviewed another 75 thousand men, in which over 51% gave the response that there was no harm in hurting their wives.
Nevertheless, sexual assault in India is a massive social issue with complex elements. Other than the caste system and patriarchal structure, police corruption, lack of judicial resources, deprivation of female education, religion and so on are also contributing factors.
Indian special correspondent, India Yoyo, points out that basic level police are generally under-educated and most of them don’t regard sexual assault as a big deal. Therefore, a great percentage of sexual assault reports go astray. A victim was even raped once more by an officer when she was reporting the case.
The shortage of judicial manpower is a big issue as well. There are only an average of 15 judges for every one million people, meaning it is very time-consuming for case hearings. It would be a luxury for the victims to claim justice through the judicial system.
Video produced by The News Lens Video Team
Translated by Wade Cheng
Edited by Olivia Yang