The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday criticised a United Nations official for her statement on the rape cases in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras and Balrampur districts, saying that an external agency must avoid unnecessary comments amid ongoing investigation.

The foreign ministry’s comment came in response to UN Resident Coordinator in India Renata Lok-Dessallien’s statement on sexual violence against women in India. Lok-Dessallien had said that the Hathras and Balrampur cases were a reminder that women from disadvantaged social groups were at a greater risk of gender-based violence, according to PTI.

“Some unwarranted comments have been made by the UN Resident Coordinator regarding some recent cases of violence against women,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “UN Resident Coordinator in India should be aware that these cases have been taken extremely seriously by the government.”

India’s foreign ministry asked external agencies to refrain from commenting on the case as the inquiry was being carried out. “Since the investigation process is still underway, any unnecessary comments by an external agency are best avoided,” the statement read. “The Constitution guarantees equality to all citizens of India. As a democracy we have a time-tested record of providing justice to all sections of our society.”

Lok-Dessallien had said in her statement that India needed to urgently address social norms and the behaviour of its men, which lead to gender violence, The Hindu reported.

“The recent cases of alleged rape and murder in Hathras and Balrampur are another reminder that despite the impressive progress made on a number of social indicators, women and girls from disadvantaged social groups face additional vulnerabilities and are at greater risk of gender-based violence. It is essential that authorities ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice speedily, and that families be empowered to seek timely justice, social support, counselling, healthcare and rehabilitation. Entrenched social norms and behaviour of men and boys that lead to gender based violence must be addressed.”

— UN Resident Coordinator in India Renata Lok-Dessallien

The two cases

On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman. She died on September 29, a day after being moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed. The four men have been arrested. However, the woman was hastily cremated by the police against her family’s consent. This has led to outrage and protests across the country.

The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her. However, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was admitted – said the forensic lab’s report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed.

Days after the Hathras gangrape, another Dalit woman died in Uttar Pradesh after two men allegedly raped her in Balrampur district. The woman’s mother had said that the accused broke her back and limbs.