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Press Release Campaigners demand government action on epidemic of caste-based sexual violence in Uttar Pradesh

*Over 75 human rights organisations sign open letter to Uttar Pradesh’s
Chief Minister over failure to protect Dalit women and girls from
caste-based sexual violence*

Dear Chief Minister,

We, the undersigned human rights organizations and civil society partners,
work to defend the rights of women and girls and ensure justice for victims
and survivors of sexual violence.

We are writing to express our serious concern at the rising number of grave
incidents of rape and caste-based sexual violence in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.)
over the last few months. The horrific crime of gangrape and physical
attack committed in Hathras on 14 September 2020, resulting in the death of
a young Dalit woman on 29 September has shaken the conscience of the nation
and lead to widespread outrage.

Worryingly, the Hathras gangrape incident is one of many recent atrocities
of rape, gangrape and murder committed against Dalit women and girls in
U.P., with Lakhimpur Kheri district registering at least six such cases in
the last 60 days. Most recently, on 30 September, another 22-year-old Dalit
woman was raped and murdered in Balrampur district. There are numerous
other cases which demonstrate the endemic of sexual violence and
caste-based atrocities in U.P., where deep-rooted casteism prevails.

2019 data from the National Crimes Records Bureau shows that ten Dalit
women are raped every day in India. U.P. has the highest number of cases of
violence against women (59,853) as well as the highest number of cases of
sexual assault against girls registered under the Protection of Children
from Sexual Offences Act. U.P. also registered the highest number of cases
of atrocities against Scheduled Caste persons under the Scheduled Castes
and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act [SC & ST (PoA) Act],
with 11,829 cases.

Despite the serious and brutal nature of these crimes, multiple reports say
that U.P. Police have not properly fulfilled their duties and have
responded in a careless and discriminatory manner. We would like you to
initiate an urgent enquiry into these allegations.

In the Hathras gangrape case, the family of the victim has alleged that
nobody was arrested for ten days after the FIR was filed. The U.P. Police
have reportedly made claims to the media that it is not confirmed the
victim was subjected to multiple rapes. This is extremely concerning given
the family maintains that police insisted on the forcible cremation of the
victim’s body at around 3am on the night of 30 September, against the
family’s wishes and they were not allowed to attend.

In numerous other cases across U.P., rape survivors and families of victims
report struggling to get FIRs registered by the police in rape cases, to
get cases additionally registered under the SC & ST (PoA) Act, and to
obtain police protection to ensure their safety from attacks and reprisals
by dominant caste community members and associates of the accused.

Sexual violence survivors and victim’s families face extreme social and
community pressure to compromise cases, particularly where the rape is
caste-based and committed by a dominant caste perpetrator. Provision of
adequate support services to survivors/victims, including police
protection, good quality shelter homes, the speedy release of victim’s
compensation, and counselling and other rehabilitation services would go a
long way in shielding survivors/victims and families from pressure to
compromise.

The rising number of rape cases in U.P. is also caused by the culture of
impunity which is enjoyed by rapists and perpetrators of caste-based
atrocities, particularly those from dominant caste communities such as the
Thakurs.

Though a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been set up by you for
investigating the Hathras gangrape case, it is not sufficient to only take
special measures in a few cases in response to widespread media coverage
and public pressure. Systemic changes and reforms are required across U.P.s
entire criminal justice system to ensure speedy justice in all such cases.
Police accountability needs to go beyond merely transferring officers who
are found to be negligent in handling cases as an appeasement measure.
Measures must show zero tolerance for any misconduct to deter similar
future behaviour and hold perpetrators fully to account.

We urge the U.P. state government to take the following measures:

– The Hathras gangrape case must be fast-tracked so justice is not delayed
or impeded. Speedy trials should take place in all such cases.

– Strict action, including thorough filing of criminal cases under section
4 of the SC & ST (PoA) Act and section 166-A of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, and taking disciplinary action against police officers who
refuse to register FIRs, tamper with evidence, push survivors or their
families to compromise, or in any way obstruct justice in sexual violence
cases, must be taken.  Action must go beyond suspending or transferring
officers. Systemic reform is needed, including police sensitization and
training, and implementation of all recommendations in the 2013 Justice J.S
Verma Committee’s report regarding police reforms.

– Immediate protection to survivors/victims and their families in sexual
violence cases must be provided, including for the family in the Hathras
gangrape case. We also urge the U.P. Government to comply with Supreme
Court directions and provisions of the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018,
including implementing a witness protection scheme in U.P., establishing a
Witness Protection Fund, and providing security cover for all victims and
witnesses who have received threats or asked for protection during the
investigation/trial of complaints of sexual violence.

– Impunity at all levels must be addressed to send a clear message that
sexual violence and accompanying violence meant to silence or intimidate
survivors or their families will not be tolerated, irrespective of the
class, caste or community the accused belongs to.

– Existing laws on sexual violence must be effectively enforced and
implemented and adequate resources allocated to combat sexual violence.

– Compensation, psycho-social support, medical care and other relief and
rehabilitation services must be provided to all survivors or victim’s
families.

We urge you to do everything in your power to send a strong message that
sexual violence will not be tolerated irrespective of which community the
victim belongs to.

Regards,

Organizational Signatories:

1. Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network (DHRDNet)

2. WAYVE Foundation

3. Equality Now

4. All India People’s Forum

5. Anandi-India

6. ANHAD

7. Anyay Nivaran Nirmulan Seva Samiti

8. Apne Aap Women Worldwide India Trust

9. Arisa

10.  Bebaak Collective

11.  Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA)

12.  Buniyaad, Ahmedabad

13.  CEHAT

14.  Dalit Vikas Parishad

15.  Eva Foundation

16.  EVIDENCE

17.  Feminists in Resistance

18.  Food Sovereignty Alliance, India

19.  Forum Against Oppression of Women

20.  Forum for Justice and Peace

21.  Gamana Mahila Samuha

22.  Green Madcaps

23.  Human Rights Centre for Advocacy, Research & Education (HuRiCARE)

24.  Humsafar support centre for women Lucknow

25.  Indian Christian Women’s Movement

26.  Indian Women Theologians’ Forum

27.  International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN)

28.  Jivan Dhara,

29.  Jubeda Ajij Attar

30.  Jyothi Jeevapoorna Trust- Archana Women’s Center

31.  LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective

32.  Maitree

33.  Manuski Trust

34.  MN350

35.  Nagari Hakka Suraksha Samitee

36.  National Alliance of People’s Movement NAPM

37.  National campaign on Dalit Human Rights- DAAA

38.  Navjyoti Center, Surkhet, Nepal

39.  Nazariya jath

40.  Nazariya miraj

41.  NDCW-National Dalit Christian Watch.

42.  Olakh

43.  One Future Collective

44.  P.B.V.M

45.  Parcham Collective

46.  People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)

47.  Platform for Social Justice

48.  Platform for social justice

49.  Pochabhai Foundation

50.  Prayas

51.  Public Bolti

52.  Radha Paudel Foundation

53.  Redefy West Bengal

54.  Rivesha

55.  RTE Forum, Maharashtra

56.  Rural and Urban Women’s Association (RUWA)

57.  Sachetana

58.  SAHAJ

59.  Saheli, Delhi

60.  Samanvaya

61.  Sampada Gramin mahila sangram sanshta.sangli

62.  Sampada Gramin Mahila Sanstha

63.  Sanchaya Nele

64.  Sangram Sanstha

65.  Shramajivi Mahila Samity

66.  Sisters of Charity Federation

67.  Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

68.  Swayam

69.  TASHI”Building Bridges with Many worlds

70.  The Blue Dawn

71.  TORANG TRUST INDIGENOUS WOMEN INDIA NETWORK

72.  Utthan

73.  Vidhrohi Mahila Manch

74.  Wada Na Todo Abhiyan

75.  Women’s Welfare Center, Pune

76.  Youth Against Injustice Foundation

77.  वर्षा गुप्ते विश्वस्त समाजवादी महिला सभा महाराष्ट्र

78.  विधायक संसद

In addition to the organizations listed below, this letter has also been
signed by over 2100 concerned citizens.

*Notes to editors:*

For media requests please contact Manjula Pradeep, Director of Campaigns,
Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network and Founder, WAYVE Foundation
http://www.wayve.net.in/

Email: manjula.hp@gmail.com

Phone number: +91 98985 15090

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