FIDH President Alice Mogwe decries gang rape in India

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On Tuesday, 29 September, 19-year-old Manisha died – two weeks after having been tortured during a terrible gang rape in Hathras, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The young woman belonged to the Dalit caste, once known as the “untouchables” – the lowest group in the rigid caste system that is still firmly entrenched in India despite its official abolition in 1950.

Since her death, many demonstrations have sprung up across India, while Manisha’s family accuses local police of cremating the young woman’s body in the middle of the night, despite lacking authorisation to do so.

On 7 October, FIDH president Alice Mogwe spoke out during an online demonstration organised by a range of organisations including Dalit women and People’s Watch, an Indian human rights organisation and member of FIDH.

We were deeply appalled by recent reports of the gang rape and eventual death of 19-year-old Manisha, a member of the Dalit community in Uttar Pradesh. The family was not given her body after the autopsy was conducted and the young woman’s body was cremated while the family was kept indoors under police custody.

FIDH has long been concerned about discrimination blemishing India’s human rights record – both caste discrimination and gender discrimination. In 2017, in India’s appearance before the UN Human Rights Council, during its Universal Periodic Review process, India made two particular commitments in relation to caste-based discrimination (regarding UPR recommendations 161.81 by Peru and 161.82 by Argentina).

India committed to continue the fight against discrimination, exclusion, dehumanisation, stigmatisation, and violence suffered by scheduled castes. In addition to that, India committed to take urgent measures to repeal the norms which discriminate based on caste and investigate and sanction the perpetrators of acts of discrimination and violence against them, in particular against Dalits.

During the same Human Rights Council session, India accepted two particular recommendations relating to gender discrimination. India committed to redouble its efforts on ensuring gender equality and to take measures to prevent gender discrimination. It also committed to step up its efforts to ensure comprehensive protection of women and girls, in particular against sexual violence.

The International Federation for Human Rights stands firmly against exploitation, exclusion, dehumanisation, stigmatisation, violence as well as gender discrimination. We call for inclusion, for gender equality and for respect for the dignity of all – including women – regardless of class or caste.

We call upon the Government of India to remain true to its international commitments made before the Human Rights Council in 2017, with particular focus on both caste discrimination and gender discrimination, in order for the government of India to ensure that all people are able to live their lives in true dignity.

Alice Mogwe, president of FIDH

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