(First published Equal Writes website in September 2009)
Earlier this summer, in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and the home of over 190 million individuals, fury and small-scale violence erupted when a Brahmin (upper-caste) political opponent of the state’s Chief Minister appeared to suggest the Chief Minister, a Dalit woman (that is, from the lowest case, often known as “untouchable” because contact with members of this caste was thought to be contaminating), be raped in order to understand the pain of rape victims.
Chief Minister Mayawati had been holding public ceremonies in which Dalit rape victims were given a small amount of compensation money (the equivalent of about $500) by government officials. Rita Bahuguna Joshi, a Brahmin (upper-caste) woman who is the leader of an opposing party, said that the women should “throw the money at Mayawati’s face and tell her ‘you should also be raped and I will give you ten million rupees’”.Joshi was arrested on charges of promoting social enmity, insulting a woman’s modesty and insulting a person of lower caste. Riots erupted, and protesters set fire to her house. The charges against her carry a possible sentence of ten years in prison.