Police in India used water cannons against a group of female demonstrators who were protesting violence against women in the country following the fatal gang-rape of two teenage girls last week. The women marched to the office of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow, the capital of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on Monday to demand that officials take action on rape and other violence against women in India.
As the Associated Press reports, hundreds of police officers, including female officers, attacked the protesters by pushing and shoving them, before setting a water cannon on them. The Hindu reports that the women are supporters of the Bhartiya Janata Party, which recently won a commanding majority in India's general election. Kusum Rai, a senior BJP leader told the paper that the women’s wing of the party “will not rest until women in the state are given adequate security.” The obvious and sad irony of police deploying violence against a protest demanding a curb on violence against women cannot be overstated.
Indian police have been accused of not doing enough to protect women or bring an end to the repeated and high-profile episodes of rape and sexual assault; protesters argue that inaction encourages violence against women. Last week's shocking death of two female cousins in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, is a perfect example of the problem: According to the AP, police failed to do anything when one of the fathers of the girls reported her missing. They were later both found hanging from a tree.
Outcry against sexual violence has continued to swell since the fatal December 2012 gang-rape of a 23-year-old women in New Delhi. In January 2013, a Danish tourist was gang-raped after getting lost while sightseeing in the capital city. Every 22 minutes a rape happens in India, but underreporting of attacks means the frequency is likely much higher.