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Indian state sees surge of rape cases

Male/female numbers blamed for rape rise in India

Families still prefer girls to boys in rural Haryana state Families still prefer girls to boys in rural Haryana state
  • Swati Deb, New Delhi
  • India
  • October 16, 2012
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Since last month, the state of Haryana has seen an alarming rise in reported rapes with victims including minors.

Last Wednesday, a group of young men kidnapped and gang-raped a pregnant Dalit woman from India’s lowest rung of the now-outlawed caste system in Kaithal district, the latest of 17 such incidents in this area in the north of the country close to the capital New Delhi.

The government has blamed the surge in rape cases to the lopsided sexual demographic in Haryana where there are just 877 women to every 1,000 men following years of infanticide and abortions. Boys remain highly favored, particularly in poor, rural communities.

“The mismatch is bound to lead to social unrest,” said an official at the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare who asked not to be named.

Surveys, including a recent report covering rural Haryana, have shown that infanticide remains widespread in some areas of the state. Punjab also has a skewed sex ratio with 893 women to every 1,000 men.

“In these states we more often get reports that men find it difficult to get brides and they bring them in from other states by paying a hefty amount to the girls' families,” said the official.

A village council in Jind District where the Dalit woman was raped has recently issued a diktat reducing the marriageable age of girls from 18 to 15 or 16 in a bid to address the problem. Men below 21 years old cannot legally marry.

Unelected village councils such as this one have no legal power but they often serve as kangaroo courts and their pronouncements are usually followed, even by local government bodies.

Om Prakash Chautala,  head of opposition Indian National Lok Dal party, prompted controversy and heated political debate last week when he backed the village council’s decision.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has demanded the resignation of the Congress Party administration in Haryana.

Sharad Yadav, president of Janata Dal, another opposition party, said the continuing practice of infanticide was finally catching up with many areas of the country and that reducing the marriage age was not only ineffective, it was not addressing the root cause.

“It’s a case of trying to kill mosquitoes without improving sanitation in the vicinity,” he said.

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