Monday, 31 August 2015
Two sisters in India were sentenced to be raped as “punishment” for their brother running away with a married woman from a higher caste in the latest caste incident to shock the country.
Meenakshi Kumari, who is 23, and her sister, 15, would then be paraded naked with their faces blackened through the streets, according to a ruling from the all-male village council.
The sisters have petitioned the country’s Supreme Court to be protected from the so-called “eye-for-an-eye” ruling from the village council in Uttar Pradesh state, 48km from the capital, New Delhi.
The family are from the Dalit caste, historically known as “untouchables”. However, the brother fell in love with a woman from the higher Jat caste.
The woman was forced into an arranged marriage in February with a man from her own caste despite her relationship, according to Zee news, citing Meenakshi.
The couple eloped in March, but returned to the village after the man’s family were allegedly tortured by police. The village council ruled that the Dalit family should be dishonoured to “avenge” the brother’s supposed crime.
Meenakshi and her sister ran away to the capital after the ruling was handed out and were able to submit their petition for protection for their family at the Supreme Court. However, they would still face the punishment should they return home.
Khap panchayats are the archaic systems of village justice that exist in much of rural India. They are dominated by the Jat caste and are almost always run by male village elders. The “courts” often order honour killings and sexual “punishments” and are frequently allowed to operate completely outside the Indian legal system, despite the Supreme Court labelling them “kangaroo courts”.
Amnesty International has set up a petition against the punishment, stating: “Nothing could justify this abhorrent punishment.”
The gang rape of a student in Delhi in December 2012 horrified the country and led to the Government vowing reform of the penal code.
However, last December, the girl’s father said the promises of legal reform had not been met. A BBC documentary, India’s Daughter, broadcast in March, proved controversial for its portrayal of how widespread rape is in India.