Now, the issue of increase in rape cases in India comes up before the US Congress

President of a New Delhi-based NGO speaks to a Congressional committee.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Less than a week after the US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell made comments that the rise in rape cases in India is keeping US students away from the country, the US Congress held a hearing during which they concluded that, in fact, rape cases in India are often being swept under the rug to avoid a growing stigma from the international community and because they aren’t being properly investigated by law enforcement officials.

Speaking to a Congressional committee, Ravi Kant – president of the board of director of Shakti Vahini, a New Delhi-based NGO that fights for basic human rights in India – told lawmakers that the rise in high-profile sexual assault cases has caused so much embarrassment for the country, it has led to many cases being acquitted because police just don’t give these cases the attention that they deserve.

Last December’s brutal gang-rape of a 23 year-old female student on a bus in New Delhi was a lightning rod, sparking furious scrutiny of India and its treatment of women from the international community. Since then, despite increases in anti-rape advocacy and the successful convictions of those involved with the rape, India has seen a distressing surge in high-profile sexual assault cases. Most recently, celebrity journalist and Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal has come into the spotlight for sexual abuse charges against a young female reporter in Goa.

The Congressional committee was chaired by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), who was told by Kant that the situation is far from hopeless in India. Kant commended the fact that, because of more exposure to such cases, more rapes and sexual assaults are being reported by the victims, calling it “a big step for [India],” but was critical of the Indian government, saying that it needs to do more to ensure that these complaints are investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Kant also said that the 2103 Criminal Amendment Act had toughened up punishments for stalkers, sexual predators, and even acid attacks, and pointed out the fact that India was among the countries that ratified the United Nations’ recent protocols for sex trafficking. He also said that Indian courts have started expediting sexual abuse cases, making sure they go through faster, although one wonders if this isn’t part of the problem, as rushing them through the justice system may be part of the reason they aren’t getting the deserved attention.

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

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