(December 28, 2012)
Amid widespread outrage over a gang rape in Delhi, another victim of sexual assault in India has committed suicide after police and suspects from an influential cast pressured her to drop the case.
The teenage girl was found dead Wednesday night after swallowing poison. She was assaulted during the festival of Diwali on November 13 in the Patiala region, Punjab, according to officials.
No arrests were made after she took her case to the police. It was only after her suicide that three suspects were detained on Thursday.
Inspector General Paramjit Singh Gill said that the teenager had been “running from pillar to post to get her case registered” but officers failed to open a formal inquiry. “One of the officers tried to convince her to withdraw the case,” Gill, the police chief for the area, told AFP. One police officer has been sacked and another suspended over their response to the alleged incident.
According to the victim’s sister the teenager was under great pressure from police. “The police started pressuring her to either reach a financial settlement with her attackers or marry one of them,” she told Indian NDTV network.
India’s social structure could be at the heart of this tragic story, as The Hindu newspaper reported that the victim was from a low cast “untouchable” family. Meanwhile her suspected rapists come from an influential caste Hindu family. The names of the accused – Gurpreet Singh, Balwinder Singh and Shinderpal Kaur – were mentioned in her suicide note.
The teenager’s suicide comes after another case of alleged sexual violence sparked days of massive protests across the country. Protesters demanded the death penalty for the five suspects accused of attacking a 23-year-old student and her male friend on a charter bus on December 16. The woman was gang-raped and both were beaten with iron rods. She remains in critical condition after she was moved to a hospital in Singapore.
In efforts to curb violence against women, Indian authorities have decided to publish online details of perpetrators including their names, addresses and identity. “We are very serious about dealing with the problem and taking all possible action as early as possible,” said Ratanjit Pratap Narain Singh, the country’s junior home minister.
Official figures show that 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year in India were against women. However the real figure is thought to be much higher as so many women are reluctant to report attacks to the police.