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India: two teenage sisters dalit community raped and murdered in Uttar Pradesh confirms postmortem.

Girls belong to the Dalit caste, the lowest in the discriminatory Hindu caste system

People protest against violence against women, in Uttar Pradesh.

Two Indian sisters in Uttar Pradesh have been found raped, murdered and hanging from a tree in the latest incident of sexual violence to shock the country.

The two girls, aged 15 and 17, were found killed and strung up in a tree by their shawls near their home in Lakhimpur district on Wednesday afternoon. They belong to the Dalit caste, the lowest in India’s hierarchical and discriminatory Hindu caste system, which used to deem Dalits as “untouchables”.

Police said the postmortem confirmed both sisters were raped when they were dragged into a sugarcane field and then strangled to death, before being hanged from the tree to make their deaths look like suicide. Six men, including a neighbour of the family, have been arrested and charged with crimes including rape, murder and helping to abet and cover up the murder.

Protesters rally in New Delhi, India, against the Gujarat government’s recent decision to free 11 men jailed for gang raping a Muslim woman in 2002.

Protests in India over release of 11 men jailed for gang rape.

“The girls were raped in the fields. When they insisted that the men marry them, the men strangled them with their dupattas [shawls],” district police chief Sanjeev Suman told reporters.

According to police, the men, who were all from the same village, had been known to the girls and they had gone with them willingly on Wednesday afternoon.

The mother of the two girls disputed this account and said that two of the men had turned up at the house on Wednesday afternoon and forcibly taken away her daughters on scooters. “I tried to stop them and ran behind them, but they beat me up and left. I shouted and ran back to seek help from the villagers,” she told local media.

The incident triggered local protests and criticism of the ruling government of Uttar Pradesh, led by hardline Hindu nationalist monk Yogi Adityanath, who has been accused of not doing enough to protect women from rape and sexual violence, particularly those from poor and lower-caste backgrounds. In 2020, there was mass outcry after a Dalit girl was raped and murdered in Hathras, another district in Uttar Pradesh.

Brajesh Pathak, the deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, made assurances that the perpetrators would face “such an action that the souls of their coming generations will also shiver. Justice will be given.”

The incident highlighted the ongoing scandal of rape and violence against women in India, which was found to be the most dangerous country to be a woman in a 2018 poll by the Reuters Foundation.

The dangers are particularly accentuated for Dalit girls and women who mostly live in poverty and are often unable to access justice or accountability.

In June, a 13-year-old Dalit girl was found gang-raped and murdered in Uttar Pradesh’s Chitrakoot district. In 2021, a nine-year-old Dalit girl was gang-raped. A six-year-old Dalit girl was raped two days later in a separate incident in Delhi.

According to data collected by the national family health survey, a government poll, nearly one-third of women in India have experienced physical or sexual violence.

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