THEME 4: FAILURE OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
CASE STUDY: INTIMIDATION, HUMILIATION, & HARASSMENT: THE TRAUMATIC AFTERMATH OF A CASTE ATROCITY
Reena and Roshani (names changed)
Date of the incident : December 2017
Reena and Roshani went to gather firewood along a dirt road by a field. Both in their twenties, Reena was six months pregnant and Roshani had recently married. The pair was accompanied by six other Dalit women and girls from their neighbourhood and while the group were collecting wood, they were confronted by two sikh men, one of whom was the landowner.
The attacker called on his mobile phone for others to come and soon a gang of four men arrived with sticks and began to strike the women and girls. Some managed to escape and went in search of help but Reena and Roshani were trapped by their assailants. They were gang-raped by five men and beaten so severely that by the time help arrived, the women were unconscious.
Their ordeal continued in the hospital where medical staff subjected them to a traumatic, intrusive, and unnecessary medical examination known as the “two finger test”. The procedure has been widely discredited for being unscientific and unethical, and in 2013 it was banned by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it is a violation of a woman’s right to privacy and dignity.
After the attack, both of their families faced intimidation and threats of violence from the local Sikh community. As the two families were not originally from the area, they did not receive assistance from others in their village. The rapists and their supporters were able to get a local political leader to co-opt the doctor who was overseeing the case. As a consequence, the results of the DNA report from the gang-rape were interfered with and DNA of the men did not match the samples collected during the women’s medical examinations.
Reena gave birth to her baby but endured a difficult pregnancy and delivery due to complications arising from the violent attack, and her child still suffers from health problems. Confronted with overwhelming opposition and struggling in poverty, Reena and Roshani were eventually forced into accepting money in an out-of-court settlement in exchange for withdrawing cooperation in the legal case.
Reena and Roshani were unable to get the justice they deserved and their rapists went unpunished because members of the dominant caste were able to exploit their privileged
social, economic and political position to prevent the legal case from progressing within the criminal justice system.