In India, suicide of another rape victim puts spotlight on inaction

Inaction

Police arrested four suspects only after the girl committed suicide on Dec. 26 and her death made national headlines.

The girl's family says several policemen repeatedly pressured them to reach the out-of-court settlement with her alleged assailants, known in local parlance as a "compromise", a common practice even in murder cases in Punjab.

The family said that when they refused to do so, the policemen threatened to charge the mother and the girl with prostitution. The son of the policeman now in custody said his father denied that.

The second policeman dismissed from the service, Gurcharan Singh, who headed the area police station, is accused of failing to oversee the rape investigation and to make sure that the necessary steps were being taken, Dwivedi said.

Gurcharan Singh was not available for comment but in a television interview in December he denied there was any delay in registering or investigating the case.

Fear Of Shame

For decades, many victims of sexual assault in India have endured a poorly funded, under-resourced and largely gender-insensitive criminal justice system that has failed to provide adequate care and justice, rights groups and lawyers say.

One woman is raped every 20 minutes in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, which reported 24,206 rapes in 2011. But many cases are never documented.

Police estimate only four out of 10 rapes are reported, largely due to deep-rooted beliefs in society that often mean victims are too scared to come forward for fear of being "shamed" by their families and communities.

In a conservative culture where a woman's perceived sexual behaviour is often linked to so-called family honour, and where rape often leaves the victim stigmatised, parents can easily be pressured into marrying off their daughters to their rapists.

It was the fear of being shamed that initially drove the mother of the Punjab schoolgirl to try to marry her to one of her alleged attackers, who came from a nearby village, and delay reporting the Nov. 13 incident to the police for a week.

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