Honorable Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj,
On behalf of Youth to End Sexual Violence, a youth-led organization dedicated to ending the use of rape and sexual violence in conflict, I am writing to urge you to denounce the rising levels of sexual and gender based violence in Haryana State, and push for immediate investigate action in Haryana regarding the rape of a 28-year old Nepalese woman on February 1st, 2015.
The G8-backed Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict has galvanized public and political support for taking concrete action on ending sexual and gender based violence in conflict. I urge you to endorse this global movement and provide better support for survivors of sexual violence and better security policies and practices for women and children in the state of Haryana.
On 4 February, a 28-year old Nepali woman was found on the Rohtak-Hisar highway, severely mutilated after a vicious sexual assault. The Haryana police were alerted to her disappearance on 1 February, but failed to take immediate action. The woman’s family said that the police delayed action because of the family’s lower economic status. Caste-based sexual and gender based violence affects thousands of women and children in Haryana; The University Institute of Legal Studies (UILS) reported that in one four year period (from 2008 to 2012) the state received 22,000 cases of gender-based violence, including dowry harassment, abduction, domestic violence, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.
The declining sex ratio in Haryana is also of immense concern to the international community and the youth of India as it highlights the decline of the welfare of women and girls. It is therefore imperative that the Government of India commits to the development of strategies that engages young people in the participation of gender-based violence awareness and prevention, overcoming the stigma and discrimination of survivors from lower socioeconomic castes.
On behalf of youth, I urge you and other members of the Indian government to:
- Commit to the elimination of caste-based discrimination to strengthen the rights of survivors of sexual violence (from all socioeconomic backgrounds), increase survivor’s accessibility to the state justice system and the response of law enforcement officers to sexual violence crimes, and abolish Feudal Courts such as khap panchayats, to eradicate impunity.
- Review existing legislation such as The (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (PoA) that has been misused and misinterpreted by law enforcement officers and delayed and/or undermine the magnitude of their response to assisting women and children from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Commit to sustained resources for the full range of medical, legal, and psychosocial services for survivors of sexual violence, and increase funding to grassroots women’s organizations to ensure the provision of these services.
- Commit to the development and enforcement of robust national laws to end impunity for sexual and gender based violence crimes and ensure the provision of training for law enforcement officers on preserving the chain of custody, and interviewing and collecting evidence from male, female, and child victims of sexual violence.
- Commit to the development of youth participation in community and civic affairs to help address the scourge of sexual and gender based violence in India; youth in India need sustained commitment from the government to create meaningful spaces where the voices of youth survivors can be heard; they need unfettered access to comprehensive sexuality education; overall, they need to be included and treated as partners in the fight to end sexual violence.
Ms. Meera Vijayann
Youth Ambassador for India on Sexual Violence in Conflict