Authorities in India have recommended a federal inquiry into the gang rape and hanging of two teenage cousins in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The office of Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of the state, made a statement confirming the proposal.
“The chief minister has decided to recommend a probe into the Badaun incident as demanded by family members of the victims.”
He had come under attacks for apparently mocking female journalists asking about the rising number of rape cases in India, saying “You are safe, why are you bothered?”
The girls went missing on the evening of Tuesday May 27. They were found hanged from a tree in Badaun district the following day.
Their families say police took more than 12 hours to respond to reports they were missing, allegedly because they were from a lower caste.
Five people have been arrested in connection with the incident. Two policemen accused of dereliction of duty and criminal conspiracy are said to be among those detained.
The brutal nature of what is being labelled a “caste-based” attack as well as the seeming indifference of police officers and authorities have sparked outrage worldwide.
Rahul Gandhi, the Vice President of India’s Congress Party paid respect to the girls at the spot where they were found hanged.
While Maimoon Mollah, Vice President of All India Democratic Women’s Association, joined a protest in New Delhi.
“The culprits and the police and the politicians they are hand-in-glove.,” she remarked. “We cannot accept this state of affairs. That is why people are upset and agitated.”
Police in India often disregard sexual assault. Indifference and hostility towards the victims are commonly reported. Some officers have been said to blame the girls themselves.
“There are (rape) cases, but 70 percent involve consensual sex. Only if someone sees or the money is denied, it gets turned into rape,” said one police officer, while another added “She is dressed in a manner that people get attracted to her. In fact, she wants them to do something to her.”
Uttar Pradesh, a state with a staggering 200 million inhabitants, sees around five people raped per day, according to statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2009.
The state is also incredibly poor, which experts say is crucial to understanding the sheer number and frequency of rape. A large proportion of rapes involve upper-caste men attacking women of a lower caste – usually “Dalit” or “untouchables”.
Such incidents led state Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi to declare Uttar Pradesh “one of the worst places to be a woman.”
In spite of the tightening of national anti-rape laws, the prevalence of rape in India has not diminished in recent years.
A rape occurs in India once every 22 minutes, according to Indian government statistics.
Further figures published by the NCRB show the number of reported rape cases in the country surged to 24,923 in the four decades prior to 2012. Some estimate up to 90 percent of rapes go unreported.