The brutal gang-rape and murder of two teenage cousins in India last week has sparked a new wave of protests across the country as sexual violence and the government’s response returns to the spotlight.
The two girls, who went missing last Tuesday night after leaving their home in search of a place to find a place to relieve themselves, were found raped and hung from a mango tree in their village the following morning. The father of one of the victims reported the girls missing to authorities, but said it took more than 12 hours for police to begin their effort to find them — by then it was too late. Four suspects have since been arrested, two of whom are police officers.
This weekend hundreds nationwide protested the murders demanding immediate repercussions and a conscious effort by authorities to end the ongoing epidemic. In Lucknow, capital of the state where the girls were raped, hundreds of women protesting outside the office of Uttar Pradesh state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday were met with water cannons from police attempting to disperse the demonstration. In Allahabad, women from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) burned an effigy of Yadav during their protests on Saturday. During a press conference last Friday, Yadav mocked journalists who voiced their concerns about the case on the same day his government fired the two officers who failed to help find the missing girls.
The cousins’ story depicts a gruesome reality in India where violence against women has become a commonality and lackluster action from authorities has been a familiar response. According to a United Nations-backed group’s 2012 report in India “every 60 minutes two women are raped, and every six hours a young married woman is found beaten to death, burnt or driven to suicide.” Despite that, a culture where police officers tell reporters “If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it” remains prevalent in India.
Despite public outcry which began following the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi in late December 2012, sexual violence in India has yet to curb. The Indian government recently passed legislation doubling prison sentences for rapist and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and human trafficking in response, but last week’s attack highlights the fact that sexual violence is still all too common in India.
More photos from this weekend’s protests can be seen below: