The Badaun Gang Rape is Another Reminder that Women Need Protection from Sexual Assault Not “Love Jihad”

Social Commentary

The Badaun Gang Rape is Another Reminder that Women Need Protection from Sexual Assault Not “Love Jihad”

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Mere months after the horrifying news of a gang rape in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, shocked India, another similarly brutal incident has emerged from the state. In Badaun district, a 50-year-old woman died of her injuries after allegedly being gang-raped by three men on January 3. The woman, who was employed as an anganwadi worker, had left her home to visit a local temple on Sunday evening, but did not return. Later, a priest from the temple and two accomplices arrived at her home and dropped her off with severe injuries and left without answering any questions, her family members told reporters. The woman was bleeding profusely and appeared to have injuries on her private parts, and died soon after being dropped off.

The brutality of the case is chilling, but it’s also a matter of concern that the story feels depressingly familiar. Like in the Hathras case, the specifics of the victim’s injuries are making it to grisly news reports that recount in harrowing detail what she went through. The nation’s media is reacting to the news with outrage and drawing parallels to the infamous Nirbhaya gang-rape case from Delhi in 2012. But even as the list of unforgivable crimes against Indian women continues to grow, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel as news of yet another gruesome rape is never far away.

In Uttar Pradesh, cases like the Hathras and Badaun gang rapes, along with the harrowing ordeal to get justice faced by the Unnao rape survivor are only some high-profile examples of just how unsafe women are in the state. For every one of these horrific cases, there are many others that don’t receive national attention and become the subject of outrage. However, authorities in the state seem more concerned with protecting women from an imagined threat of “love jihad” rather than rapists.

Since the state government passed an ordinance against unlawful conversion in November last year, there have been dozens of instances of interfaith couples being harassed by right-wing activists and police under the new law. Even consensually married couples have had to deal with arrests and other hardships simply because right-wing groups had a problem with their union. UP’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had bullishly announced the ordinance and claimed it would protect the rights of women, but far more grievous crimes are taking place under his watch that don’t involve people marrying outside their religion.

In connection with the Badaun gang-rape, the local police station’s officer-in-charge has been suspended for negligence in handling the case. Considered in contrast to the alacrity with which the police has jumped to enforce the “love jihad” ordinance in multiple instances, it paints a damning picture of the priorities of the state’s law enforcement agencies. The sad reality is that the victim in the Badaun case was the latest in a long line of women whose safety has been overlooked by the authorities, whose attention is elsewhere.

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