The video above, recorded from a cell phone, shows a girl being beaten mercilessly with a tree branch. She is getting the 10 lashes ordained by the village elders.
Her crime is that her father raped her — a gross offense she can do nothing about.
A farmer and local labor activist named Sachin Tukaram Bhise, who saw the entire episode and recorded it, explains how despite the father’s confession of rape, the elders said it was the girl’s fault as the father was drunk.
Bhise took his evidence to the police, who later arrested all seven members of the council, charging them with conspiracy, extortion and assault. The father was held on charges of child abuse.
Village councils, though illegal, are an integral part of rural areas in countries like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These councils decide issues like land disputes and sexual harassment, arising among the members of their community and mostly their word is the law.
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People like Sube Singh Samain, a leader of an association of clan councils in the northern state of Haryana, believes these councils of elders serve a vital role in a county with an overburdened justice system and where legal cases can be costly.
However, Jagmati Sangwan of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, a longtime critic, feels differently — especially when it comes to the councils dealing with issues of rape and sexual harassment.
“They will ask the family of the victim to go for a compromise, go for mediation, and that suppresses the interests of the victim,” she says.
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In March 2016, Sarita, an 18-year-old girl who had been raped by her father on and off for four years, had to record him raping her in Uttar Pradesh, India, so that people would believe her.
“I always went mad when my daughter complained about her father. I thought she was making up stories about him,” recalled her mother. “But the truth has left me shattered. I am still shocked to believe a father could do this to his own daughter. But now my daughter has all my support and I regret not believing her sooner.”
A 15-year-old girl, who was seven months pregnant after being raped by her father over a period of eight months, had to be rescued by social workers and police. Her father will hopefully be charged under India’s Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
A BBC documentary, “India’s Daughter” on the Dec. 16, 2012, gang rape in Delhi was banned by the Indian government for being too “controversial” and saying they would “not allow any organization to leverage such an incident and use it for commercial purpose.”
Mukesh Singh, one of the rapists, blamed the victim during an interview for the documentary.
"A decent girl won't roam around at nine o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," he said.
India has been labeled as one of the most dangerous countries for women. Rape is the fastest growing crime in India, up by 875% in the last four decades. Keeping in mind the fact that in countries like India, the cultural stigma keeps many victims from reporting the crime, the increased number of reported sexual crimes over the past 40 years is drastic as well as disturbing.
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Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Amit Dave