Outrage over gang rape in India leads to online social activism

The families of two girls gather underneath their hanging bodies. The families refused to allow the girls to be cut down until arrests were made in the case. Photo boljantabol.com

By Greg Holden

Condemnation from around the world mounts today as news about two young girls found hanging in a tree in Badaun, a town of about 160,000 in northern India, sparked outrage. Five men are under arrest, accused of gang rape in the case. The Indian government has recently passed a law that allows for the death penalty in gang rape cases.

The rapes are alleged to have occurred in the state of Uttar Pradesh, a northern region of India where the caste system plays a larger role in people’s lives than the rest of the country. The girls are Dalit, who are often called “untouchables” due to being considered lower class people. 20% of Indian people are Dalit and suffer discrimination and oppression daily.

Three brothers have been arrested for the rapes as well as two police officers. The Director General of Police, Al Banerjee, is under fire for suggesting the killings were honour killings by family members when he had no evidence that was the case. In a separate case in the same region, two teens, 14 and 15, were abducted and gang raped only two days after the Baudin attack in nearby Etah, also in Uttar Pradesh.

Alaphia Zoyab, a journalist in India, has initiated an online petition so people can voice their opposition to what some call state-sanctioned sexual abuse. The Home Minister of the Madhya Pradesh region, Babulal Gaur, did not help that impression when he said about rape, that “sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong” in response to events in Badaun. Zoyab’s petition is aimed at embarassing the political leadership. “My country’s new leader ran on the promise of rebuilding the holy city, Varanasi, where he was elected, as a major tourist hub”, said Zoyab, “If we build a millions-strong global call for the protection of women and plaster it all over Prime Minister Modi’s city, he’ll be forced to act to save his tourism plan.”

You can add your voice to help Zoyab reverse the trend in India by signing her petition.