June 30, 2014

Gillibrand, Colleagues Urge Indian Prime Minister To Combat Gender-Based Violence And Improve Safety Of Women In India

Recent Reports Detail Brutal Rape and Murder of Two Young Indian Girls

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and nine of her colleagues sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month urging him to take immediate action to combat gender-based violence and improve the safety of women and girls in India. The Senators’ letter to the newly-elected Prime Minister comes after reports that two young Indian girls were raped and murdered in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. 

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Chris Coons (D-DE). 

“As you know, two weeks ago, two young girls were found dead hanging from a tree after they had gone missing from their home in a remote village in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh. An autopsy confirmed that both girls had been repeatedly raped and strangled,” the Senators wrote. “We share your country’s shock and horror over this terrible tragedy.” 

News of the tragedy sparked shock and outrage in the northern Indian state after troubling allegations that police officers may have ignored initial reports that the girls were missing and may have attempted to cover up the crime. 

The Senators wrote, “… the Indian government has taken important steps to strengthen laws and increase punishments for these heinous crimes. However, it is clear that more needs to be done to prevent violence against women, improve victim support services, bring perpetrators to justice, and address other forms of gender-based violence including child marriage.”

The lawmakers added that the United States will continue to work with the Indian government and share best practices on how to fight violence against women. “[W]e look forward to continuing to partner with your government on immediate and sustained action to provide adequate psychosocial support for victims of sex crimes, improve gender and sexual assault response training for all Indian police, promote effective implementation of anti-rape laws, increase efforts to prosecute and hold perpetrators accountable, and help decrease the stigma associated with reporting crimes of sexual violence.”

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Prime Minister Modi: 

Congratulations on your recent election as Prime Minister of India, in which women voters played an integral role. We look forward to working together and continuing to develop our countries’ history of social, diplomatic, and cultural ties. In light of the recent brutal rape and murder of two teenage girls in northern India, we write today to urge you to take immediate action to combat gender-based violence and improve the safety and security of women in your country. 

As you know, two weeks ago, two young girls were found dead hanging from a tree after they had gone missing from their home in a remote village in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh. An autopsy confirmed that both girls had been repeatedly raped and strangled. We share your country’s shock and horror over this terrible tragedy.

In addition, we are concerned by allegations of both complicity and negligence by the local police. There are indications that police officers may have ignored initial reports from the family that the two girls were missing and may have attempted to cover up the crime. If true, this information is deeply troubling. 

Tragically, high rates of rape and sexual assault have been a longstanding challenge for your country, and the true scope of the problem may never be known as sexual violence remains one of the most dramatically underreported crimes. In response, the Indian government has taken important steps to strengthen laws and increase punishments for these heinous crimes. However, it is clear that more needs to be done to prevent violence against women, improve victim support services, bring perpetrators to justice, and address other forms of gender-based violence including child marriage. 

In the United States, we have also been working to better address violence against women in our own communities—yielding important lessons learned and best practices. As such, we look forward to continuing to partner with your government on immediate and sustained action to provide adequate psychosocial support for victims of sex crimes, improve gender and sexual assault response training for all Indian police, promote effective implementation of anti-rape laws, increase efforts to prosecute and hold perpetrators accountable, and help decrease the stigma associated with reporting crimes of sexual violence. 

We appreciate the commitments you have made to improve the status of women in India and we stand ready to work with you to ensure that all Indian women and girls are able to live without fear of violence.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.