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(NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
(NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Ongoing issue

5 years after ‘Nirbhaya,’ police handling of sexual violence remains problematic in India

By WITW Staff on April 3, 2018

assIt has been more than five years since the brutal gang rape of Jyoti Singh on a bus in New Delhi—an attack so heinous that it sparked widespread protests across India and prompted the government to put forth a number of recommendations for combating sexual violence. But according to the Agence France-Press, sexual assault remains rampant in India—and police handling of sexual violence cases continues to be problematic.

More than 100 instances of sexual assault are recorded every day in India, and a November report by Human Rights Watch found that legal and other reforms adopted to improve authorities’ handling of assault cases in the wake of the Nirbhaya rape “have not been fully realized.” (As Indian law does not allow the press to publish a rape victim’s name, the victim became widely known at the time as Nirbhaya, meaning “fearless”). Police reportedly continue to refer survivors to hospitals for virginity test, and activists say that police still refuse to file cases against alleged rapists. Some survivors report being pressured into settling with their assailants.

“Police came to our house and threatened us, saying ‘sign a settlement or we will beat you up’,” one survivor, who was assaulted by her brother-in-law last year, told the AFP. “They also asked for a bribe, intimidated us. Whenever I would go to the police station, they would try to shoo me away, saying things like ‘you’re just pretending, you’re lying, nothing has happened’.”

Madhur Verma, spokesperson for Delhi’s police force, told the AFP that he believes measures aimed at preventing sexual assault—like increased patrols on the city’s streets, and self-defence classes for women— “feel safer than they used to feel five years ago.”

But he acknowledged that police are “still working towards” making New Delhi a truly safe space for women. In the video below, a mother of two and a widow opens up about being brutally raped by her brother-in-law. She said she was sleeping outside when she was gagged and bound and awoke to her brother-in-law assaulting her. The woman reported the crime to the police, but said that she was bullied into silence by police who mocked her and said she was making up the story. Watch her interview in the report below.

Read the full story at the AFP.


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