By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Another horrific attack in Uttar Pradesh led to the death of a twenty-three year old woman rape victim while traveling to attend a court hearing. Police accuse five men, two identified by the victim as her previous rapists, of stalking her as she prepared to board a commuter train. They doused her with kerosene then set her alight.
She then suffered having to walk nearly a kilometer afterward to summon police via telephone. She was medivaced to New Delhi having received burns to ninety-five percent of her body before suffering cardiac arrest and succumbing to her injuries.
The attack not only highlights a combative approach by some members of society toward the rights of women, but also conveys the shortcomings of a burdened legal system that in some ways facilitates retribution against victims and vigilantism against the accused. It is another, probably less recognized cost of the lack of speedy trial protections in Uttar Pradesh.
The events came to the public forum after the alleged victim filed a criminal complaint in March accusing two local men of raping her at gunpoint in December of 2018.
Law enforcement located and arrested one of the suspects, the other had absconded. The former managed to secure bail and his release one week prior to the subsequent assault. All five men are currently jailed on a fourteen day judicial hold.
Likely more due to public outrage, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath vowed to “fast-track” the case and “the guilty would not be spared.”
Problematically, India suffers from lengthy criminal justice delays that have eroded confidence in sexual assault victims to press charges or continue an often times burdensome process. The daunting and somtimes expensive process hits the poor especially hard which of course incentivizes or at least diminishes the reluctance of some men to pursue victimizing women and children.
Victim advocates are calling on the government to fully fund criminal justice to reduce backlog and process which leads to courts allowing recognizance of offenders who then intimidate witnesses and threaten or assault victims in revenge or to prevent prosecution. The presence of the accused having been returned to society promotes in the minds of some vigilantism due to a pervasive belief the government will not protect victims by sanctioning felons who prey upon women and others.
In 2017 Uttar Pradesh had the highest incidence of rape in India with over 4,200 reported cases.
The criminal court system within India stands as a reminder of the truth of “justice delayed is justice denied”. The spillover costs of inaction and under-funding are showing its effect by creating dangerous behaviors in society. If the government leadership there does not arrest this dysfunctional process soon the lack of faith in the system will haunt politicians if it is not successfully abated.
By Darren Smith
Source: The Irish Times
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