Doubts over Indian rape punishment claims

Claims that a traditional council in a northern Indian village ordered the rape of two young low-caste women, may be based on gossip, the women’s father says.


India’s Supreme Court had been petitioned to protect the sisters, who alleged that the all-male, upper-caste “khap panchayat” ordered they be punished for their brother eloping with a higher-caste woman.

Unelected “khap panchayat” commonly rule on matters of marriage, property and women’s dress.

In rare cases, they have ordered rape as punishment.

Speaking in the village of Sankrod, in Uttar Pradesh state, the women’s father, Dharam Pal Singh, said news of the council order may have been village gossip.

“What we’re saying”, he added, “is that they didn’t ask us or tell us before holding the council, but the council does take place.”

There were further conflicting accounts on the case from more than 20 interviews conducted in the village by Reuters,

It has also emerged that the council that took the decision is 80 per cent female and led by a woman.

Village Council Head Bala Devi said there was no council meeting on the matter and no rape punishment was ordered.

“We spend our time discussing mundane things like fixing the roads or water pump,” she said.

Any rulings, however, were hard to confirm, as they are often made verbally.

Rahul Tyagi, the lawyer who brought the case to the Supreme Court, stood by the petition.

“There can’t be any documentary evidence [for a khap panchayat] because, firstly, it is illegal and nobody who has attended the khap panchayat would come out and say so.”