Last week, using information from the Huffington Post, Amnesty International (UK), and the Times of India, I posted a story about how two Indian women were sentenced to be raped as punishment for their brother’s adultery.
Reporters for Reuters have been looking for confirmation of this story, conducting interviews with locals and even talking with the family members themselves. As far as they can tell, there’s no evidence of this punishment being handed down. The family asked for protection, yes, but there’s no evidence the council actually issued the grotesque punishment in the first place.
… family members said in interviews with Reuters the information that the council made such an order may have just been gossip. “It is all hearsay, we don’t know if this actually happened,” said Dharam Pal Singh, 55, the women’s father and a retired soldier. “We heard it from other villagers.”
There were many discrepancies in the accounts offered by the families of the sisters and the married woman, members of the village council, the lawyer who drew up the Supreme Court petition, and police officials. But no one said they had any evidence that the council had handed down the rape punishment, as alleged in the court petition. The petition said the council was comprised of upper caste men.
The village council is actually more than 80 percent female and headed by a woman who, like the sisters, is from the bottom of the caste hierarchy.
“How many times do I have to tell you that there was no meeting?” said Bala Devi, 55, who has run the council for the last five years. “We spend our time discussing mundane things like fixing the roads or water pumps.”
That hasn’t stopped some people from continuing to push the story:
Gopika Bashi, women’s rights campaigner at Amnesty International India, said that despite the doubts cast over the story there were no plans to withdraw its petition. “We will continue to push for protection for the family,” she said.
They can ask for protection, but it’s unclear whether or not they actually need it.
I’m happy to correct myself when I post about a story that turns out to be untrue, and this appears to be one of those times. My apologies for perpetuating it. My only excuse is that I felt those sources were reliable enough and their reports full of details that it seemed unlikely to be based on a giant game of hearsay. But when you build a structure on a flimsy base, this is what happens when the foundation falls apart.
This incident, however, shouldn’t be included in those reports. I’ve included an update in my original post to reflect this.