Thousands of people have staged protests and called for capital punishment to be deployed against those responsible for the murder of a 27-year-old woman in Hyderabad last week.
Priyanka Reddy’s body was found scorched under a bridge in the streets of Hyderabad, some 15 miles from where she had been abducted. Hundreds have taken to social media to express their outrage , with the hashtag ‘HangRapists’trending in India for the past week. Protests have also taken place in Delhi and Hyderabad, as anger mounted over the rape.
Four men have been arrested in connection with the case, with three police officers also suspended over their failure to properly investigate the incident.
Whilst the victim’s mother has called for the murderers of her daughter to be put to death, the mothers of the accused have also called for their sons to be hanged for their alleged crime.
One of the mothers of the accused rapists told the The Press Trust of India “You give them whatever punishment (to them). I have a daughter too”.
Priyanka had parked her motorbike to see a doctor and had called her sister at 9:45pm to inform her that her motorbike had a punctured tyre upon her return. She went on to tell her sister that there was a number of truck drivers nearby, and that she was feeling afraid. Her sister had advised her to leave her vehicle and hail a taxi home. This was the last contact she had with the victim.
Priyanka’s sister told local journalists that when she complained to police officers about her missing sister, there was a serious failure to investigate the crime. “We lost a lot of time moving from one police station to another,” she said. “Had the police acted without wasting time, at least my sister would have been alive”.
The family told the National Commission for Women that officers suggested that she may have eloped rather than taking action. Three police officers have been suspended due to the allegations made by the victim’s family.
Priyanka’s body was then found by a milk vendor the next morning. police had recovered the rest of her personal possessions including her clothes and shoes by the bridge where her motorbike had been parked. Given the condition her body was found in, it was said by police that medical evidence would be difficult to obtain but that they would be conducting the investigation on the basis that she had been raped.
The four accused men, all aged between 20 and 24, are expected to go through a ‘fast track’ trial following the demands of many angry protesters and politicians.
The men have confessed to having offered to repair the flat tyre by blocking her way and thus leaving her with no choice but to accept their help. It is said by the police, that the flat tyre was a ruse instigated by the truck drivers with the intention of gang-raping her. According to the police report, she had also been forced to drink alcohol before they had raped her.
Sexual violence has been a pressing issue in India in recent years. Violence against women in India had once been in the spotlight before, in 2012 for the gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi. Although rape sentences in India had been doubled to twenty years since, in 2013, this has failed to significantly bring down the rate of rape cases.
British filmmaker Leslee Udiwn, during the course of making a film about the cases interviewed the bus driver Mukesh Singh, one of the men accused of raping the victim in 2012. “A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night,” he told her. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.” He also went on to say that women must not “fight back” when being raped, and that “she should just be silent and allow the rape”. Udwin says that “these men are not the disease, they are the symptoms”, and that “these offences against women and girls are a part of the story, but the full story starts with a girl not being as welcome as a boy, from birth”.
Many women’s’ groups have also complained that Indian authorities have taken little action to prevent violence against women. Kavita Krishnan of the All India progressive women’s association stresses that “disrespect for consent” and “patriarchy is the problem”. Krishnan also argues that India’s judiciary is “interested in regulating in regulating women’s sexuality and judging them rather than offering them justice”.
India’s judiciary has come under fire for several years over its treatment of sexual violence cases, including of victim shaming and failing to appropriately punish perpetrators.
Meanwhile the community of Shamshabad where Priyanka lived have rejected any engagement with the media and police and have instead demanded action.