More than 10 rapes are committed in India’s lawless northern state of Uttar Pradesh every day.
The statistics in neighboring states such as Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana are also not encouraging.
These regions are very backward and steeped in social evils like casteism and patriarchy. Some of the perpetrators even film rapes and circulate them widely, often to prove that they are beyond the purview of the law and to show the victim, quite often a woman from a lower caste, her place and silence her from seeking justice.
For these men, the advent of smartphones and social networking sites have only become a quicker tool to instil fear among their victims and make it easier to carry out their attacks.
On the other hand, many of the rape victims, often shunned by their families or even blamed for the incident, are driven to suicide when these video clips reach porn stores.
On January 13 this year, a social health activist and mother of three committed suicide after four men raped her in a field near her home in Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, recorded the act and circulated the clip on WhatsApp.
On June 17, a 17-year-old teenager was abducted and gang-raped by four youths who filmed the act and circulated it on social media in the same city. The girl did not commit suicide, but life will never be the same for her.
The number of such crimes is on the rise, especially in Uttar Pradesh’s big cities and towns due to the proliferation of “rape videos” (euphemistically called “local films”),which are available for a little at 30 Us cents to US$3, an investigative report by Al Jazeera shows.
Such rape videos are sold in porn stores in Lucknow’s Naka Hindola, Kanpur’s Mall Road and New Market, Kasganj, and various other big cities and towns in Uttar Pradesh, according to local reports.
But before selling these rape videos, shopkeepers make sure that the customer is a local and knows certain secrets in the trade like a handshake, which means he wants this footage.
Once the payment is made, the 30 second to five-minute video clip will be sent to the clients’ cellphones within seconds.
A villager of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh told Al Jazeera he purchased these videos from nearby villages and gets “peace of mind” while watching them.
Some of these videos show the real act, while others may be faking it. Real or fake, more customers appear to be hooked and violence against women is rising in the state as they try to emulate the acts seen on these videos.
What is more shocking is that some police officials are not at all aware of this social malice.
When Al Jazeera sought the views of District Inspector General of Police for Saharanpur Range, A K Shahi, he said he did not know what a rape video was.
Shahi said he would take action if he was provided with the video.
The Inspector General of Police for Meerut Range, Ajay Anand, told the news channel that he was too new to the job and must first see the videos before making any comment.
Most rapists film the act to blackmail the victims and to stop them from approaching the police.
In some cases, these videos are stolen by shopkeepers when cellphones, tablets or computers containing such clips are left for repairs.
The Uttar Prdaesh Crime Records Bureau says that as many as 38,000 cases of violence against women have been booked in the state. Of them, 3,700 are rape cases. Many more such cases go unreported because of the social stigma attached.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau of India, in 2014, 337,992 incidents of violence against women were recorded, a 9% increase over the previous year.
Although the number of rape cases declined by 5.6% to 34,651 in 2015, down from 36,735 in 2014, other sexual offences like sexual harassment, stalking and voyeurism increased by 2.5%.
Uttar Pradesh is located close to India’s capital New Delhi, which had witnessed massive protests after the fatal gang-rape of a woman on a city bus in December 2012.
Crimes worse than these have happened elsewhere in India in the 1990s when photographs, instead of video clips, were used by the perpetrators.
One such rape case was in Jalgaon in Maharashtra, which was exposed in 1994.
Some 300 women and girls were tranquilized, tortured, raped, photographed and blackmailed by people with political connections in Jalgaon for over five to 15 years.
Lack of medical evidence
The cases were weak because of the delay in reporting them and lack of medical evidence. In 2000, the Mumbai High Court acquitted the main accused, a Congress leader, after he served four years in jail.
Some law enforcers turn sadistic while dealing with rape cases.
Times of India on November 4 reported the plight of an invalid’s wife who was allegedly gang-raped by a local councillor and three of his friends two years ago in Thrissur district, Kerala.
The councillor said the victim was leveling false charges against him for demanding the money she owed him while the local police inspector denied the allegation that he had asked her to make a compromise.
While collecting evidence of the rape, police began asking her questions like who among the rapists gave her the maximum pleasure. Unable to bear the torture of such questions, the woman decided to drop the case.