In a tweet on Wednesday, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, senior politician from India’s opposition Congress Party, wrote: “If police stations are not safe for women, then where will they go to complain?
An investigation into the alleged incident at a police station in the state’s Lalitpur district is ongoing. After his arrest, the officer at the center of the allegation told reporters he was innocent and called for an independent investigation. All officers on duty at the time of the alleged incident have been reprimanded and action will be taken against them if found guilty of a crime, according to police.
Separately, four men were arrested for allegedly kidnapping and raping the minor in April, police say. They allegedly took the girl to the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh, where she was raped and held for four days, police said. A woman was also arrested in connection with the alleged incident, police said.
They were also accused of breaching Indian laws in place to protect minority castes, police said. The five have not been formally charged.
The girl was from India’s Dalit community, Lalitpur Police Additional Superintendent Girijesh Kumar told CNN on Thursday. The accused police officer was also a Dalit, Kumar said.
The alleged incident is the latest in a string of high-profile crimes against women and minority groups across India, embodying what critics allege is widespread internalized misogyny and support for patriarchal values.
According to the latest figures from India’s National Crime Records Bureau, more than 28,000 cases of alleged sexual assault against minors were reported in 2020. But campaigners believe the real figure is much higher, as in other countries rape is often underreported.
In a statement on Wednesday, India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) described this month’s alleged incident as a “human rights violation”.
caste violence against women and girls
India’s 2,000-year-old caste system categorizes Hindus at birth, defining their status in society, the jobs they can do and who they can marry.
It was officially abolished in 1950, but the social hierarchy still exists in many parts of the Hindu-majority nation.
Dalits make up about 201 million of India’s 1.3 billion people, according to government figures. They have been labeled “untouchables” in the past and continue to face rampant discrimination, violence and sexual assault.
A litany of violent crimes and sexual assaults against Dalit women and girls has sparked outrage in recent years.
In August last year, four men, including a Hindu priest, were charged with the rape and murder of a 9-year-old Dalit girl in the Indian capital of Delhi.
Activists and opposition politicians say the crimes reflect an atmosphere of hate, fueled in part by a rise in hardline Hindu nationalism.
Their investigation revealed that Dalit women and girls in the northern state of Haryana are often denied access to justice in cases of sexual violence due to the “prevalent culture of impunity, especially when the perpetrators belong to a dominant caste”.
The organization called on the government to ensure increased police accountability and effective law enforcement to protect caste minorities.
In March 2020, then junior member of the Home Office, G. Kishan Reddy, said in a written response to parliament that the government was “committed to ensuring the protection” of people from marginalized castes. He added that the laws were amended in 2015 to strengthen preventive and punitive measures for crimes against Dalits.