As police standby last week, two elderly women were beheaded after three days of torture by an angry mob which is the latest in a string of sorcery related crimes. According to the Post-Courier police could not overtake the angry mob leaving them helpless to save the two women from a grisly public death. As Bougainville police inspector Herman Birengka explained to the paper: “We were helpless. We could not do anything” as his officers were threatened while trying to release the women. He described the killing as barbaric and senseless as the women were held captive since Tuesday by relatives of a former school teacher who died recently. He explained that, “The two women were rounded up and taken to Lopele village after they were suspected of practising sorcery and blamed for the death of the former teacher, who was from Lopele village.” The report states that the two women were tortured for three days, suffering axe and knife wounds, before the beheading in front of the police who were there to mediate. The reports comes only days after another report that six women accused of witchcraft were tortured with hot irons in an Easter sacrifice in the southern Highlands and just last month a women accused of the same was burned to death by a mob. Amnesty international is calling for the government to end the sorcery related violence in Papua New Guinea and stamp out the practice where there is a widespread belief in sorcery and where people do not accept natural causes to explain a death. In recent years, there has been several of these cases as well as cannibalism in the country even reports of a man eating his screaming newborn as part of a sorcery initiation ceremony in 2011.
The Indian Parliament Thursday passed a law to protect women against sexual violence in response to the fatal December gang rape and beating of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi reports the Associated Press. The recent rape and robbery of a Swiss couple in Madhya Pradesh less than a week after the law’s passage has also sparked controversy over the safety of Indian women and for that matter any women who travels outside India’s tourist hot spots. The law once signed by the president and becomes official will make stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime as well as provide for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that cause fatal injuries to the victim. It will also be a crime for police officers who refuse to open cases for sexual attack complaints. Activist see the law as a milestone in women’s rights even though many are concerned about how effectively the law will be enforced considering the country’s poor record of law enforcement. As Vrinda Grover, a senior lawyer and women’s rights activist explains, “It’s a significant moment. We have taken many steps forward. Much, much more needs to be done.” The bill passed the upper house Thursday two day after the lower house approved it. The reason the law passed so quickly is in response to the Dec. 16 gang rape fatality which sparked nationwide protest calling for the government to take action to protect women. The government set up a panel to recommend changes to Indian laws governing crimes against women and the Cabinet then passed an ordinance adding int he suggestion from the panel, bu it was up to Parliament to pass a law by the next moth before the ordinance expire leading many lawmakers complaining about the law being rushed through without discussion or debate. Many see the bill as the most stringent effort to curb violence against women in India ever, while others see it as only a stepping stone as many problems still remain such as the government’s refusal to see marital rape as a crime. Ranjana Kumari, a women’s activist and director of the Center for Social Research, explained, “If bodily integrity is the issue, and consent is the issue, than certainly rape in marriage should be included.” She also takes issue with the 10 year maximum sentence for acid attacks too light and the government’s decision to make 18 the age of consent is out of touch with the sexual mores. As the Associated Press reports, Kumari does see it as a step in the right diretion but fears an insensitive police force and overburdened judiciar could make it diffuclt to enforce stating, “The implementation remains the larger challenge.”
Indian officials are now claiming that the Swiss tourist and her husband could be partially to blame for the attack and gang rape that occurred in a remote wooded area in Madhya Pradesh last week because the couple did not ask about the safety of the region according to the Huff Post. On Friday, the couple pitched a tend in the forest in Madhya Pradesh while on a cycling trip, according to the Associated Press, when around 9:30 p.m. a group of men beat up the husband, tied him to a tree, gang raped the wife and robbed the pair, police confirmed. On Sunday, police spokesman Avnesh Kumar Budholiya during a press conference said the tourists are partially to blame for the assault due to the fact they didn’t consult the local police about the area before traveling through the area reports the Independent. Budholiya explained,”No one stops there. Why did they choose that place? They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They would have passed a police station on the way to the area they camped. They should have stopped and asked about places to sleep.” Another official, Umashankar Gupta the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh explains, “The rape of the Swiss national is unfortunate but foreign travelers should inform the police about their movement so they can be provided with adequate protection. They often don’t follow the state’s rules.”
The Times also reported that Madhya Pradesh has one of the highest rates of crimes against women in the country which the Swiss tourists were unaware of. A senior official from the region also has this to say: “They apparently lost track and took a wrong turn and decided to halt for the night by the side of a village brook little realizing that the district with 85:100 men to women ratio is not the safest place for women.” CNN reported that six men have been arrested in connection with the gang rape, while the victim was hospitalized after the attack claiming four of them raped her and the other two robbed the couple. All six will appear in court Monday. The gang raped comes only three months after the gang rape of a 23 year old woman on a public bus by five men in New Delhi who unfortunately died due to her injuries. The defense attorney for three of the accused men partially blames the now deceased woman saying a “respected lady” does not get raped. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it is common in India to blame the victim of such crimes because of a woman’s role in society. Ranjana Kumari, director for New Delhi based Centre for Social research told the news papers that,”This is the mentality which most Indian men are suffering from unfortunately. That is the mindset that has been perpetrating this crime because they justify it indirectly, you asked for it so it is your responsibility.”
I think this is a really good idea for women to feel safer in a city that is notorious for violence against women. Last month’s brutal gang rape and murder on a public bus in broad daylight of a 23 year old student in New Delhi has shined a light on the dangers to women living here. New Delhi, known as the “Rape Capital” of India, has been an unsafe place for female dwellers for years, but one group of women hopes to help this growing problem or at least help protect each other. A grim foreshadowing, a BBC report showed that in 2010 a government backed study found that two out of every three women are sexually harassed every year and the most unsafe form of transportation is buses. Maybe the government should actually use the these reports that they fund so they can prevent these horrible crimes, but hey what can I say America allows these thing to happen here to. However, I do commend the citizens of India for taking matters into their own hands and changing things themselves since the government drags their feet to deal with these issues. Welcome to America! Oh that’s right this is India we are talking about. But seriously, as most experts and scholars would say, the government will not provide the change we need it will be civil unrest and the common man that will change the world. In this case, to fill some of the void a group of women will start operating a female driven and female targeted taxi service in New Delhi. The Cabs for Women by Women run by a nonprofit the Sakha Consulting Wing is a small company but since the rape has seen a rise in the female passengers reports Public Radio International. The women who drive for the service are not necessarily embraced by the male dominated industry and the risk for both driver and passenger is a concern. In fact, every driver takes a self defense class taught by the police department. There are similar companies in Singapore, Indonesia and Egypt.
This is by far the strangest and most cruel punishment for a rape victim I have ever heard of, but I am glad the Moroccan government has finally realized that. in Rabat, Morocco, the government has announced a plan to change the penal code so that rape victims are not forced to marry their alleged rapist. A paragraph in the penal code states that the offender can go free if they marry their victim and the practice was encouraged by judges to avoid shame to the victim’s family. One incident in particular sparked change when a 16 year old poisoned herself to get out of 7 month abusive marriage to a 23 year old she said raped her. The practice is found across the Middle East in India and Afghanistan to avoid a family’s dishonor by a woman’s loss of virginity out of wedlock. The marrying age is 18, but judges have approved much younger unions. A new article proposed on Monday, gives a 10 year penalty for consensual sex with a minor and doubles the sentence for sex resulting in deflowering or rape. The Justice Ministry argued that the girl was not raped and the sex was consensual. The prime minister also argued that the provision is rarely used and a majority of rape cases are pursued. While the code has been updated in recent memory 2004, a more comprehensive law to combat violence against women has reached a stalemate in Parliament for 8 years.