(AP / Altaf Qadri)


While we came out on the streets to protest the rape of a 23-year-old woman named Nirbhaya who was gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi, India, a 15-year-old Dalit, or former “untouchable”  girl was being held captive in Dharauli village in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, and was repeatedly raped by a group of upper-class perpetrators.

While thousands of people gathered on the streets to revolt against those who raped and killed Nirbhaya, this little Dalit girl had no one to even report her case, let alone light a candle to support her.

And she isn’t alone.

A 16-year-old in Sonepat, Haryana tried to take her life by setting herself on fire after being raped by her uncle.

An 8-year-old girl was found floating in a lake in Bihar after being raped and killed.

The NCRB (National Crime Record Bureau) of India records a 112 percent rise in the number of reported rapes between 1990 and 2008 in India. In 2011, 24,206 rape cases were reported. That’s 66 rapes a day.

That’s the number of rapes reported.

Ninety percent of the rape cases in India go unreported. Of every 10 women raped in India, nine are afraid to speak up against their perpetrators or do not have access to the social media.

Ninety percent of the rape victims aren’t as lucky as Nirbhaya was.

What we call a 21st century “social media boom,” fails to report the rapes of thousands of girls who have to bleed silently, to death sometimes.

“So, you got raped by your uncle? I’ll just ask him to pay for the abortion if you get pregnant and you can go back to work tomorrow. We haven’t eaten rice in three days.”

That was a response Promila got from her mother when she walked up to her one morning and told her she was raped and impregnated.

“We don’t complain against our uncles. They’re family and it’s against the rules,” said Promila when I asked her why she wasn’t seeking legal help.

She left me thinking. In a country as culturally and ethnically rich as India, we’re asked to abide by cultural norms or “rules” as we call them. Does that mean an uncle isn’t a rapist? Does that excuse you from the truth that you’ve been raped? Absolutely not.

Promila resumed her work the next morning. She washed clothes and she ran daily chores at my neighbor’s house. I watched her turn into a recluse who never spoke to anyone.

I called the police station one morning.

“We have no records for anyone under that name, Ma’am,” the officer told me over the phone. “No one exists by the name of Promila Das.”

I put the receiver down and cried.

How can you say you’ve been raped when you don’t even exist?

Majority of the members of the working-class in India aren’t registered citizens of the country. Legal help is for the “legalized.” What does one do when one isn’t even a citizen?

That brings me to my question. Is a person really dehumanized and not entitled to help if they don’t have a passport in their pocket?

Is it really Promila’s fault that she was an illegitimate child and that her parents didn’t issue her a birth certificate?

Unreported rape cases in India are a growing concern. The worst part about it is that no one knows where to start.

Young Dalit girls, who were once considered “untouchable” and “dirty”, are now raped on a daily basis. They make easy victims. No one really cares about them anyway.

Sex-workers are sometimes made to have sex against their will. They don’t call the police. It’s their profession, right?

It angers me when our politicians point to the laws protecting rape victims and tell us that we have the system in place.

We don’t.

There are no laws protecting victims of oral-sex, or those sexually-violated without penetration.

There are no laws protecting those who serve the country every single day, but don’t have the luxury of being called a citizen.

There are no laws protecting the thousands of Promilas in the country who have no choice.

Rapes behind the curtain might save the politicians some need for action, but we have to question the very basis on which humanity rests.

Are we really that afraid to draw the curtain and expose what lies behind it?

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13 Responses

  1. Your bias against Hindus is evident in the first paragraph itself. When a Dalit girl is raped you promptly mentioned that. But where as you comfortably ignored the fact that its a Muslim who raped Nirbhaya. You either talk about caste, religion in all cases or dont speak about that at all.

  2. Oh for heaven’s sake don’t use phrases like “Ninety percent of these girls were not as lucky as Nirbhaya.”
    Are you being serious right now? Nirbhaya was lucky?
    How do you deem a girl who was raped and succumbed to her injuries luckier than the girl who was raped and killed?
    What kind of a journalist are you man?

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  4. Hi, I’m from India.

    I want to draw your attention here on another kind of rape behind the curtain about which nothing has spoken so far and societies have turned a blind eye to it. This kind of rape is committed very cleverly on women – in such a way that it doesn’t appear to be a rape. We can name it as “consensual rape”.
    In this kind of rape, a woman’s consent is fraudulently obtained by misleading her. In consensual rape, the man pretends to be in love with the woman and voluntarily makes false promises of marriage to her and asks for sexual intercourse. When the woman, believing him in good faith, gives her consent to sexual intercourse and submits herself to his desire, she is then exploited by the man – often for years. Later, when the woman reminds her man to fulfill his promise of marrying her, the man backs out and breaks his
    promise on one or the other pretext and leaves her in lurch – and leaving her think what wrong did she do? But she’s not able to find a reason or a fault, because there actually was no reason and no fault of hers. She feels like she allowed herself to be used but as she gave the consent herself and therefore she gives up raising her voice against this. Moreover, she never knew that it was all pre-planned in the mind of the man who she trusted and submitted-to thinking him to be true to her.

    The hard reality is that she is no-where at fault except that she failed to understand the nefarious and selfish desires of the man and that she was actually being used and exploited, right from the beginning, only to be dumped one day. In this manner the man uses the woman like a chewing gum and throws her after satisfying his lust and also escapes without being accused of his criminal intent. No doubt, in consensual rapes, the woman herself gives her consent in her relationship, but what needs to be seen is that the consent was given under an innocent belief and fraudulently obtained with a mala fide and criminal intent.
    Unfortunately, this is widespread in India and happening everywhere else also, touching millions of women and girls. More shocking is that it’s committed by even the so-called the respectable persons in the Society. Sometimes, men blatantly admit also before their woman, that they were actually using the woman and as she was of no use to them any longer (after years of using them) it leaves the woman deeply hurt and heart-broken. Sometimes the women, knowing this reason for being dumped, have even committed suicide from the disgust of having been used as a tissue paper.
    No just that, the same man who is exploiting a woman is seen often engaged in multiple relationships with several women at the same time and similarly exploiting all of those women at the same time – but the hard fact is that none of those women ever come to know this, because those women do not know each other. It also happens that the man is many a times, married with children, yet he’s engaged in such multiple relationships and he succeeds also, because the woman trusts him and moreover she has no way to find out about her man’s intentions. Unfortunately, such cases also do not come to anyone’s notice as the affected women do not like to share their failed relationships with others thinking themselves to be responsible for this, whereas the hard reality is something else, as stated above.
    This issue has remained untouched and pushed under the carpet yet widely prevalent, I am sure many people will conform to this.

  5. hi.
    Im working with a legal group to ascertain the number of unreported cases of rape or sexual assault in India.
    You said- “Ninety percent of the rape cases in India go unreported. Of every 10 women raped in India, nine are afraid to speak up against their perpetrators or do not have access to the social media.”
    Can i know on what source this is based?

    1. The source is the author’s brain, which arrived at 90% as the number which would have enough impact on the reader once he/she read it.

      I appreciate you venting out your frustrations, and standing up for the poor girl, but please, for heaven’s sake, separate facts from emotions.

  6. Wow. I was just moved to tears. I cannot imagine…it is unbelievable. What a compelling story and beautiful, eergy illustration. Thank you for sharing! What a way to raise awareness.

  7. Really moving story you tell here Jasmine. It’s because of people like you that the stories of women and girls like Promila are told and can have an impact, despite the odds (and it’s great that we have platforms like Girls’ Globe to have these stories reach large audiences). In the wake of the massive amount of media attention the Delhi gang- rape garnered, you brought up the important point that we have forgotten (or took for granted) the fact that many women in India don’t really ‘exist’ by legal standards and literally have no where to turn for help. Thanks for doing the work that you do!

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