Indian women feel oppressed

One of the girls died when the perpetrators set his house on fire, the other is fighting for his life by burns after being raped, doused with gasoline and set on fire by a man. All of this happened within a few hours in the Indian state of Jharkhand. Many acts of violence against women never come to light on the subcontinent, but the two fire attacks on Friday were too bestial to cover up.

The police have so far found no evidence that the two cases could be related. What unites them is only the excessive brutality. And Indians are once again reminded that, despite all the debates and legislative changes, their state has not yet found a way to protect women from excessive violence, persecution and murder. Those who belong to the lower classes or who live in areas where India's laws still outweigh the archaic reflexes of an encrusted patriarchal society are particularly at risk.

Then the village council made a decision that fueled the conflict

In the first case, the parents left for a wedding on the evening of May 3rd. No one could help the 16-year-old woman in Raja Kundra village when several drunken men kidnapped her from her home, dragged her into a forest and raped her. The morning after, when the daughter told the family about the crime, the parents took the case to the traditional village council called Panchayat. These gatherings of old men in village communities do not formally have any judicial decision-making power in the Indian state, but they are still a decisive authority in many areas when there are disputes. Enlightened Indians consider it a relic that often cemented the oppression of women. But protests by liberal circles have so far not been able to undermine the weight of such village councils. Because the critics demonstrate and form mostly in the cities, while the laws in the country remain the same.

In the case of the raped 16-year-olds, the village council made a decision that further fueled the conflict. The prime suspects were ordered to pay a fine of $ 750 and do 100 sit-ups, according to the elders' decision. The alleged perpetrators were so angry that they attacked and beat the parents and eventually burned the girl inside the house.

In the meantime, the police have arrested at least 18 suspects in the village of Raja Kundra, no one responsible will be spared, the investigators promised after the death of the 16-year-old.

Only a few days ago the penalties for sexual offenses had been tightened

As soon as the nation learned of this crime, there were reports of another gruesome fire attack in Jharkhand. Police reported that a young man ambushed a woman, raped her, and then doused her with gasoline. The 17-year-old victim has been in hospital with severe burns since then. "But she is approachable and answers questions," said an investigator. The suspect who was arrested testified that he had a relationship with the girl, allegedly wanting to marry her, which she refused. The alleged perpetrator denied having ambushed her and set her on fire.

Just a few days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had tightened the penalties for sexual offenses by decree, according to which rapists of girls under the age of twelve will face the death penalty in the future. Critics warn that such steps cannot remedy the causes of the violence, which are primarily to be found in the social disadvantage and oppression of girls and women.

On May 1, judges at the Constitutional Court were shocked by the high number of stalled legal proceedings aimed at punishing sexual crimes against children. In the densely populated state of Uttar Pradesh alone, there are more than 30,000 cases that have not been dealt with. "So the perpetrators enjoy impunity," complains the Indian political scientist Deepti Mehrotra. The constitutional judges have now ordered the creation of special courts to clear the traffic jam and to exercise justice.

The Constitutional Court also ordered the trial of the alleged rapists and murderers of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Kashmir to be relocated to another state. The suspects in this case are Hindus and the agonizing death of the nomad girl had ravaged India in April after it became known that a group of lawyers and influential politicians tried to block the investigation into the suspects.

The lawyer for the victim family reacted with relief to the decision of the highest judiciary. At least now the chances are increasing that the men will not get away with impunity.