You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Rape in India Goes Unpunished and Ignored

Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty

As is so depressingly common with depressing news from India, crimes and tragedies lay bare massive political and administrative dysfunction and corruption. 

About four months ago, riots broke out in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. What started with anger in the district of Muzaffarnagar between religious communities concerning disputed accounts of conflict (several of which, unsurprisingly, concerned attacks on or insults to women) morphed into large-scale violence and over 40 deaths. After several political parties used the escalating Hindu-Muslim tensions to rile up supporters, the army was deployed (for a time) and tens of thousands of people were kicked out of their homes.

Even worse, the people expelled (who are almost entirely Muslim) were forced into refugee camps and fell victim to brutal sexual violence. (Outlook India just ran a cover story about the numerous Muslim women that have been raped in camps and nearby homes.) Several people have also died from the cold, although one government official denied this, stupidly saying this was medically impossible because people manage to live in Siberia.  Meanwhile, a top man in the state's ruling party has claimed that the refugees living in the camps are not victims but rather "conspirators." Politicians who have tried to show their support have been rebuffed, for the perfectly understandable anger that the victims (sorry, conspirators) feel. The government continues to exhibit stinginess above all else, and is now trying to close the camps. (They have already started evicting people).

To summarize, then: the various political parties have alternately tried to rile up the perpetrators and disregard requests for proper aid and support for the victims. And although various instances of sexual violence have been reported to authorities, the police are being (typically) slow to act; sexual predators are able to operate with near impunity. Despite a few touching stories of generosity, the situation remains extremely dire. People can and should offer donations to the victims, but the catastrophe has laid bare many of the long-term challenges India faces.