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Five female NGO workers were abducted and sexually assaulted at gunpoint in East India’s Jharkhand state. According to CNN, the female activists worked for Asha Kiran, an NGO backed by the Christian missionary group that runs a shelter in Khunti for girls and young women who leave their homes in search of work and often end up as domestic workers and victims of sex trafficking. The five women, along with four men and two nuns, were performing a street play to raise awareness of human trafficking in Jharkhand, which is considered to be the human trafficking capital of India. During the performance a group of armed men attacked and abducted the men and women. Reports indicate that the men were beaten while the women were raped in a nearby forest. According to Al-Jazeera, the perpetrators filmed the assault and used to the video to blackmail the women not to go to the police. Some preliminary evidence indicates that the perpetrators might be members of the local Pathalgadi, a group that doesn’t recognize the authority of the local or national governments in their villages and have banned the entry of outsiders without their permission. According to Al-Jazeera, the police had taken some supporters of the Pathargarhi movement and had questioned them.
The Superintendent of Police, Ashwini Kumar Sinha, told CBS News, “the investigation is on. We will look at all angles to ascertain who is behind this heinous crime.” The police have been able to identify one suspect, according to RK Mallick, Additional Director General of police operations. They believe that the suspect is Junas Kido, one of the leaders of the Pathargarhi movement in India. RK Mallick said that the women were assaulted “under a conspiracy hatched out of vengeance by John Jonash Tidu.” However, Balram Samad, leader of the Pathalgadi movement, denied the involvement of anyone from the movement in the crime and stated, “we are also trying to nab the accused. We are in support of hanging the culprits.”
According to the police, Ajub Sandi and Ashish Longo have been arrested for the crime and confessed to it. They told authorities that after the incident they had gone back to the “RC Mission School and informed Christian preacher Father Alfanso of the incident. However, he advised them not to disclose it with anyone.” The police have arrested Father Alfonso as well for attempting to cover up the incident.
In a recent study, India was found to be the most dangerous place for a woman “due to the high risk of sexual violence against them, as well as human trafficking for domestic work, forced labor, forced marriage and sexual slavery.” According to CNN, in 2016 alone, 39,000 rape cases were reported, around 100 sexual assaults are reported daily to police, and just last month two teens girls were raped and set on fire in Jharkhand. The rape of the five NGO workers is not an unprecedented issue that has shocked India. According to Khmer Times, almost everyday, “Indian television channels and newspapers report with tiresome regularity of young girls and women from all walks of life being assaulted, molested, violated and raped — both in the country’s sprawling cities as well as in tiny villages.” Sexual violence in all forms is a crisis that India knows too well and needs to address on a social and political level.
The Indian government has passed stricter laws on sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse, including the newly passed law that introduced the death penalty to those convicted of raping children under the age of 12. However, none of these laws have been effective in alleviating the problem. According to Express, in May, a girl was “horrifically burned to death after her distraught parents complained to police about her being kidnapped and violently raped in India. In addition, CBS News reported that the men who were accused of kidnapping a 16-year-old girl at a wedding ceremony in Jharkhand, bludgeoned the victim’s parents when they were fined with £550. The legislature’s response towards these incidents have not had a great impact in reducing the numbers of sexual violence against women in India. In fact, the latest National Crime Records Bureau data indicates that incidents of rapes have gone up by 12-15 percent in recent years.
Sexual violence against women is a crisis worldwide and needs to be treated as one by the international community. India, in particular, suffers from this crisis and is seen as the most dangerous country for women. Thus, it is vital that the Indian government enforces its laws against sexual violence in order to see a change. The laws, as they are enforced now, are ineffective. By simply passing laws and not enforcing them, the Indian government is not tackling the problem, it is only quieting the protesters.