India: authorities slammed for failure to investigate police rape allegations made by 13 Adivasi women

‘The authorities must thoroughly investigate both the allegations of abuse and the delay’ - Gopika Bashi

The authorities in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh must conduct a swift, thorough and independent investigation into the refusal of police officials to investigate complaints of rape by police, Amnesty International said today.

Thirteen Adivasi women, an ethnic minority group, say they were raped and sexually assaulted by police and security force personnel during search operations in Nendra village, in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh state between 11-14 January. The men also allegedly raped or sexually assaulted other women, threatened to beat up villagers, and stole poultry, other food and money.

However, when last Monday (18 January), the women tried to file a First Information Report (FIR) at the office of the Bijapur District Collector, the head of local administration, the police recorded the women’s statements, but said they could not register a report, despite being required to do so under Indian law. It was not until a press conference was held by activists last Thursday that the police finally registered a First Information Report against unnamed police and security personnel for offences including rape, gang-rape and sexual assault.  

Gopika Bashi, Amnesty India Women’s Rights Campaigner, said:

“The unnecessary delay in registering complaints of sexual violence against police and security forces is extremely worrying.

“The authorities must thoroughly investigate both the allegations of abuse and the delay.

“The repeated allegations of sexual violence by security forces in Chhattisgarh point to a disturbing trend. The Chhattisgarh government needs to independently investigate these allegations, and ensure that anyone found responsible is swiftly brought to justice.”

One of the women’s statements reads: “Two men caught hold of me and dragged me inside my house. They took off my clothes, tore my blouse and pressed my breasts.  One policeman raped me and said, ‘We will burn down your houses. If it wasn’t daytime, we would have killed you.’”

The women’s lawyer told Amnesty: “The women who were raped were not able to even walk properly. Despite that, they went to file an FIR, but police officials refused to register an FIR unless the Superintendent of Police was present.”

Two other cases of alleged sexual violence by security forces have also been reported in recent months and similar inadequacies in investigation have occurred. On 15 January, six Adivasi women from Kunna village, in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh state alleged that security force personnel had stripped and sexually assaulted them on 12 January. The police are yet to register a First Information Report in the case.

On 1 November, women from Pedagelur village, Bijapur district in the state of Chhattisarh in central India filed an FIR alleging rape and sexual violence committed by the security forces between 19- 24 October, yet no charges have been filed in the case to date.
 

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