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India: Gang rape and murder of teenage girls 'damning indictment of failure to stem violence against women'

The gang-rape and murder of two teenage Dalit girls in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh is a gruesome reminder of the violence that Dalit women and girls face in India, Amnesty International India said today.

The girls - aged 14 and 16 – went missing on the night of 27 May. They had gone to a field to relieve themselves because they did not have access to a toilet at home. The father of one of the girls says he sought the help of the local police to find them, but the policemen on duty refused to register or investigate the complaint and slapped him instead. The next morning, the bodies of the girls were found hanging from a tree near their houses. Autopsies indicate that both girls had been gang-raped and strangled.

The police have arrested two men from a dominant caste on suspicion of being involved in the gang-rape and murder, and are searching for more suspects. A police constable has been suspended for dereliction of duty, and another arrested.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The rape and murder of these girls is a horrifying tragedy.

“It is also a damning indictment of a failure to stem the violence against women and girls that continues to be an enormous problem in India.

“These girls faced multiple disadvantages that made them especially vulnerable; the lack of adequate access to basic facilities like a toilet, the fact that they were Dalit girls who face very high levels of violence, and the fact that they are simply female.

“India’s new government must take immediate and far-reaching measures to protect Dalit women’s rights to safety and dignity, and end impunity for crimes against them.”

In India crimes against Dalits are often not properly registered or investigated, conviction rates are low, and there is a large backlog of cases. Police are also known to collude with perpetrators from dominant castes in covering up crimes by not registering or investigating offences against Dalits.

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities across India also poses a serious threat to the safety of women and girls forced to defecate and urinate in the open, making them more vulnerable to violence. More than 600 million people – over half of India’s population – are forced to relieve themselves outdoors.

India is obligated under international law to take appropriate and effective measures to prevent and punish all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Authorities in Uttar Pradesh must ensure that the gang-rape and murder are impartially investigated, and those responsible swiftly brought to justice. They must also hold accountable any police personnel found to have refused to register or investigate complaints.

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