Thou­sands urge help for In­dian sis­ters who were ‘or­dered raped’

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Thou­sands have signed a pe­ti­tion urg­ing pro­tec­tion for two In­dian sis­ters af­ter a lo­cal coun­cil al­legedly or­dered them raped and pa­raded naked as “pun­ish­ment” af­ter their brother eloped with a mar­ried woman.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said Sun­day more than 122,000 peo­ple have joined its online pe­ti­tion in re­cent days to protest at the or­der by the coun­cil of el­ders or “khap pan­chayat” in the north­ern state of Ut­tar Pradesh.

“An un­elected all-male vil­lage coun­cil (khap pan­chayat) or­dered that they be raped and pa­raded naked, their faces black­ened, as pun­ish­ment for the ac­tions of their brother,” Amnesty’s pe­ti­tion said.

One of the sis­ters this month filed a pe­ti­tion in the Supreme Court seek­ing pro­tec­tion for her fam­ily af­ter they were forced to flee their vil­lage in Bhag­pat dis­trict.

The fam­ily, from the low­est “un­touch­able” Dalit caste, was forced into hid­ing af­ter the brother eloped with a woman from the vil­lage’s dom­i­nant Jat caste, ac­cord­ing to lawyer Vivek Singh.

The coun­cil of Jat el­ders is­sued the rape or­der against the sis­ters, aged 23 and 15, in July af­ter Jats falsely ac­cused the brother of ab­duct­ing the mar­ried woman, Singh said.

“They were threat­ened by the Jats with rape. They wanted to take re­venge for the ac­tions of their brother,” Singh, act­ing for the 23-year-old sis­ter who filed the case, told AFP.

The Supreme Court or­dered Ut­tar Pradesh author­i­ties to re­ply to the sis­ter’s pe­ti­tion by Sept. 15.

Amnesty called Sun­day for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the coun­cil’s or­der, say­ing Dal­its suf­fered wide- spread dis­crim­i­na­tion.

But Bhag­pat po­lice chief Sharad Sachan said their in­ves­ti­ga­tions had so far un­cov­ered no such rape threat against the sis­ters.

“We have in­ves­ti­gated the al­le­ga­tions and found the khap didn’t meet over this is­sue and the threat wasn’t is­sued to the women,” Sachan told AFP.

Vil­lage coun­cils and “khap pan­chay­ats” — sep­a­rate in­for­mal coun­cils com­posed of el­ders — ex­ert enor­mous in­flu­ence over ru­ral life, par­tic­u­larly in north­ern In­dia.

Although they carry no le­gal weight, khaps can be highly in­flu­en­tial and have been blamed for nu­mer­ous abuses such as the sanc­tion­ing of “honor killings” of cou­ples de­fy­ing tra­di­tion.

Branded “kan­ga­roo courts” by crit­ics, they have also been known to hand down public beat­ings for per­ceived crimes.

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