The suicide of the minor dalit girl in Kunduli of Koraput district in Odisha on 22 January is a moment of reckoning for everyone fighting against the heinous crime of violence against women. She had accused four security personnel of gang rape on October 10, 2017. Very typical of incidence of sexual violence where the accused happen to be police, army or security forces, this incident of sexual assault too went through the usual round of inordinate delays and denial of gang rape. The suicide of the young victim who was very keen to pursue her studies but was never able to get out of the raging controversy and heightened media publicity is a bitter reminder of the continued impunity of rapists in uniform, and of the brazen collusion of the state in denying justice to those who, like this young girl, refuse to remain silent.
Getting justice for survivors of sexual assault has always been uphill in this misogynist and patriarchal society. It becomes even tougher when the state machinery itself puts formidable barriers to protect the accused. In this case, the Odisha government and district administration did exactly that.
Let us have a look at the series of events that went against the complaint of the girl.
The DGP had listed the matter under the red-flag category and initial statements by the police even blamed the Maoists.
The demand for withdrawal of security forces by local organizations and the community involved went completely unheeded.
The denial of gang rape by the police and administration in the absence of a thorough enquiry and the long delays accompanied by constant media publicity deepened the distress and anxiety of the family and the community. One can only imagine what it can do to a young girl.
WSS expresses deep grief at the death of the girl and stands in solidarity with her friends, family and community. It is indeed the cruellest of times and the cruellest of societies where a 16-year old puts an end to the ordeal by using her own scarf to hang herself and end the fiasco of seeking justice. Even as we write this statement we cannot do away with the foremost thought on our minds – who is responsible for this suicide?
Ø WSS demands that the Odisha government follows the investigation to the end and punishes the guilty. We also demand stringent punishment be meted to all those responsible for delaying the investigation process.
Ø WSS demands that the Odisha government withdraws all security forces from the area. Women and girls are never safe in such areas. The deployment of security forces and army by no way implies de facto impunity to rape at will.
Ø WSS appeals to all democratic and progressive forces in Odisha and elsewhere to strengthen the struggle for a society free of sexual violence. Let’s work towards a society where those violated do not have to choose the noose in future but are able to live with dignity and with courage. Sexual violence is not only a women’s issue. The culpability of a patriarchal culture where sexual violence is the everyday norm involves entire society at large.
Ranjana Padhi, Pramodini Pradhan, Sudha Bhardwaj, Kalyani Menon,Shobha Raghavan,Rinchin and Madhuri Krishnaswamy
For Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non funded grassroots effort started in November 2009, to put an end to the violence being perpetrated upon our bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on our women and girls by any perpetrator(s).