sexual violence

How the police pressured a young woman into taking back her rape complaint

Despite reforms after 2012 Delhi gang rape, India’s police continue to let down survivors of sexual violence.

“The police beat me up, detained my father, and threatened to lock him up under false charges if I didn’t tell the magistrate that I had filed a false complaint of rape, so I did as they said,” Kajal said of her ordeal after she reported being raped by three men in Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh in September 2015.

Kajal (whose name has been changed to protect her identity), 23, had hitched a ride with a male acquaintance on September 14, 2015, to take food to her sick mother who was at a temple in a nearby village. Kajal says the man and two of his friends raped her and left her by the side of the road. Her screams drew passersby. One of them got in touch with her father, who took her to the police to report the crime. The police filed a complaint of gang rape and took her for a medical test.

A day after she filed the rape complaint, the police asked her father to bring Kajal to the police station to be escorted to depose before a magistrate. But at the police station, Kajal said, the police detained her father. After slapping her and beating her with a stick, they demanded that she deny her allegations and made her sign several blank pages. She said she was terrified into lying to the magistrate that she had made the complaint at her father’s behest.

Kajal said the police also threatened her father with arrest under false charges if he did not sign a statement that she had filed a false complaint. They beat her father and detained him for two more days.

The case of Kajal demonstrates how even five years after the legal and other changes spurred by protests over the gang rape and murder of a young student, Jyoti Singh, in Delhi, these reforms are yet to be fully realised.

Since the reforms were initiated, more women have been reporting sexual assault and rape. According to the latest available data, there has been a 39% increase in the number of rape complaints.

However, as part of an investigation into 21 cases of rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment after the legal changes took effect, Human Rights Watch found that survivors of rape continue to encounter humiliation, victim-blaming and distrust at police stations. Police still resist filing the First Information Reports, especially if the victim, like Kajal, is from an economically or socially marginalised community. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 made police failure to register a complaint of rape a crime, punishable with up to two years in prison. But there is no record of a police official being charged under the provision.

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Credit: Human Rights Watch

Need for change

In some cases, like in Kajal’s, the police blatantly misuse their powers to threaten women and their families to drop or settle rape complaints.

Kajal, with the help of a local civil society organisation, which offered her legal help and psychosocial counseling, wrote to several senior police officials and the State Human Rights Commission, detailing police intimidation, but did not receive any reply.

In December 2015, the police filed a closure report, saying their investigation found that Kajal and her father had filed a false complaint because of a land dispute with the main accused. However, the chief judicial magistrate disagreed with the closure report and asked the investigating officer to depose before the court. Kajal also testified in the court in November 2016, saying she had been forced by the police to lie in her earlier statement. The case is pending resolution.

After she was raped, Kajal was abandoned by her husband and his family. She now lives with her parents, who were forced to move following threats from the accused, villagers’ taunts, and, finally, eviction by the landlord.

“I did the right thing by reporting but the police officers did not help me get justice,” Kajal said. “Everyone blames me. They say, ‘Her character is bad, that is why this happened to her.’”

In light of such damning evidence of police failings, the Union home ministry needs to ensure that police response to complaints of violence against women, including resistance to registering rape complaints, is at the top of the agenda for the annual conference of directors general of police in December. The conference is an important avenue for establishing greater Center-state coordination on law and order, and to review issues of police accountability.

Today, India needs leadership and action to review progress in implementing the laws dealing with violence against women, and to ensure survivors get the justice and dignity they deserve.

This is the first in a three-part series looking at barriers to justice, healthcare, effective legal aid and other support services for sexual assault survivors in India, despite stronger laws and policies coming into effect since the 2012 gang rape and murder in Delhi.

Jayshree Bajoria is the author of the recently released Human Rights Watch report, Everyone Blames Me: Barriers to Justice and Support Services for Sexual Assault Survivors in India.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.