Rape survivors in India face significant barriers to justice and critical support services, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Nov. 8. The group said legal and other reforms introduced after the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus had yet to be fully realized. In a report, “‘Everyone Blames Me’: Barriers to Justice and Support Services for Sexual Assault Survivors in India
” the rights group said women and girls who survive rape and other sexual violence often suffer humiliation at police stations and hospitals. Police are frequently unwilling to register their complaints, victims and witnesses receive little protection, and medical professionals still compel degrading “two-finger” tests. These obstacles to justice and dignity are compounded by inadequate health care, counseling, and legal support for victims during criminal trials of the accused. “Five years ago, Indians shocked by the brutality of gang rape in Delhi called for an end to the silence around sexual violence and demanded criminal justice reforms,” said Meenakshi Ganguly the group’s South Asia director. “Today there are stronger laws and policies, but much remains to be done to ensure that the police, doctors, and the courts treat survivors with dignity.” The Human Rights Watch report details 21 cases – 10 cases involving girls under the age of 18. The findings are drawn from more than 65 interviews with victims, their family members, lawyers, human rights activists, doctors, forensic experts, and government and police officials, as well as research by Indian organizations. It takes time to change mindsets, but the Indian government should ensure medical, counseling, and legal support to victims and their families, and at the same time do more to sensitize police officers, judicial officials, and medical professionals on the proper handling of sexual violence cases, the rights group said.