Protesters in India have once again taken to the streets to express their outrage at the way law enforcements officials have reportedly mishandled a case of sexual assault, this time against a five-year-old girl who remains in stable condition at a hospital after a 22-year-old man was arrested under the suspicion that he brutalized her for a horrifying 40 hours in a rented room in New Delhi.
Hundreds of people gathered in New Delhi on Saturday to protest this latest incident in a string of seemingly endless high-profile sexual assault cases in India that began four months ago when a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi. The woman’s subsequent death inflamed critics of India’s outdated, misogynistic sexual assault laws, putting pressure on government and law enforcement officials to make substantive changes to the way claims of sexual assault are investigated in a country where the so-called “two-finger test” (in which a doctor inserts two fingers into a woman’s vagina to determine its laxity and whether the hymen is broken) is still considered admissible evidence in a rape trial.
According to the Washington Post, the girl in this case went missing on Monday while she was playing in her “working-class neighborhood” in the eastern part of New Delhi. Police arrested a 22-year-old man named Manoj Kumar, accusing him of locking the girl in a rented room for 40-hours while brutally raping her. Details of the case took a particularly infuriating turn on Friday, when the girl’s father accused police of offering him him hush-money to keep quiet about the investigation.
The father’s comments stoked an already outraged crowd of New Delhi protesters, as well as prompted the following headline in the Hindustan Times: “Delhi shamed again.” Activists who gathered in the streets on Saturday called the city the “rape capital” of India, a troubling epithet that is somewhat validated by statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau showing that New Delhi reported the highest number of crimes against children in 2011. Moreover, while India very well may have a gang rape problem, statistics from the Asian Center for Human Rights show that its track record on child rape is just as horrifying: 48,338 cases of child rape were reported in India from 2001 to 2011, a period during which incidents of child rape increased a mind-curdling 336 percent.
What’s worse, the organization says that these outrageously large numbers likely represent just a small percentage of all child rape in India, since, in a country whose record investigating and prosecuting sexual assault is dubious at best, many instances of child rape go entirely unreported.
Image via AP, Channi Anand