NEW DELHI (Web Desk) – A pair of sisters, one of whom is only 15, are to be raped as punishment for their brother running away with a married woman in an Indian village.
The teenager and her elder sister Meenakshi Kumari, who is 23, will also be paraded through the streets naked with blackened faces, according to an unelected all-male village council, the Mail Online reported.
The barbaric punishment has been handed down in Baghpat district, Uttar Pradesh, around 30 miles north of New Delhi.
According to Zee News, the pair’s brother Ravi fell in love with a girl from the higher Jat caste and the couple eloped in March, even after they were forcibly separated and she was married off to another man in February.
The sisters fled the village in May fearing retribution, causing the family’s home to be ransacked.
The Kumaris are Dalits, or untouchables, at the very bottom of India’s ancient caste system, transgressions of which are still taken extremely seriously in many parts of society.
The couple have now reportedly surrendered after their family were allegedly tortured by police and members of the Jat community to avenge the brother’s actions.
But that was not considered sufficient retribution and the Khap panchayat, or village council – of which Jats are prominent figures – has decided on the punishment for the sisters.
India’s Supreme Court has described such bodies as ‘kangaroo courts’ and branded their decrees illegal, yet in some states they continue to operate and their punishments are often carried out, according to Amnesty International.
The group has started a petition against the ‘abhorrent’ punishment, which now has nearly 30,000 signatures out of a target of 50,000.
Meenakshi has filed a petition with the supreme court asking for protection and her father has lodged a complaint with two national bodies, saying that his family has been harassed not just by the family of the woman who has eloped but also by the police.
Sumit Kumar, another brother of Meenakshi, says that members of the Jat caste are powerful members of the village council and that ‘the Jat decision is final’, adding, ‘The police said anyone can be murdered now.’
As well as their own family, Kumar and his relatives are also worried about the safety of the Jat woman, who is now thought to be pregnant with Meenakshi’s brother’s child.
Khap panchayats are widespread in parts of India. They tend to be made up of older men from dominant castes, who prescribe rules for social behaviour and interaction in villages.
Rachel Alcock, Amnesty UK’s urgent action coordinator, said: “Rape is a revolting crime, not a punishment. It’s no wonder this disgusting ‘sentence’ has provoked global outrage.
“These Khap courts routinely order vile sexually violent punishments against women. India’s supreme court has rightly declared such orders illegal.
“The government of Uttar Pradesh has an urgent duty to keep this family safe.
“There must also be a proper, independent investigation into these barbaric and illegal orders which apparently continue to be issued by the khap panchayat courts.”