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

Inaction

"I said if they are unmarried she could marry one of them. We had already lost our honour in the village," her mother explained, sitting on a bed outside the impoverished family's bare two-roomed dwelling in Badshahpur.

But the council of the suspects' village told her the men were already married. She said she was offered dowry money by the men's families instead, so the girl could marry someone else, which she rejected.

"I told them 'my daughter is not a cow or buffalo that can be sold off'," she said.

The suicide note said by the family to have been written by the girl, and seen by Reuters, says: "All should forgive me. I am fed up with my life so I am taking this step. Those who have raped me are responsible for my death."

The suicide note makes no mention of police inaction, but her older sister said the girl, who was sent to live with a cousin in the nearby town of Samana, would call home almost every day for weeks to find out whether the police had taken any action. The answer was always the same - no.

"Really Shoddy"

"One part of the problem is certainly attitudes (towards rape victims)," says Aruna Kashyap, women's rights researcher for Human Rights Watch. "A lot of government officials, especially police, allow negative ... stereotypes of rape survivors being promiscuous to interfere with their duties."

Advocates for victims of rape say the collection, transport and storage of forensic evidence by police - a key component in rape cases where the onus is on the prosecution to prove the crime has occurred - is also often poorly conducted, resulting in weak prosecutions, low convictions and lenient jail-terms.

"Indian investigative mechanisms are really, really shoddy and very basic investigations are often botched up," said Rebecca Mammen John, a Supreme Court lawyer.

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