How superstition and gender-based violence collude in this nightmare story of a minor girl’s rape
In Mau district, a 66-year old so-called tantric raped a minor girl. The incident happened in a village of the district when the complainant was taken to the tantric to cure her stomach cramps. “He told me that I will die if I told anyone.”, with a shawl covering her face, the minor girl’s voice quivers as she recalls the horror she had to face.
The tantric belonged to the village and was known to the girl’s family. In fact, they had gone to him earlier for various complaints, which may or may not have medical basis. In this case, the family of the girl believed that their daughter suffered from physical ailments because of ghostly causes. These superstitions, that are very common in the region, gave the perpetrator a lot of power over the girl and her family.
The girl was accompanied by her father when the tantric suggested that they head towards the forest area, outside the village for her treatment. He made the father wait half way through, even as he led her deeper into an isolated area. There, by the girl’s accounts, he raped her and threatened her with death if she told anyone about this.
The girl reported the incident the next day to her mother, who was shocked to learn of the event. By the time the family tried to get hold of the tantric, he had absconded. The family then reported the incident with the police. “We filed a FIR and took the accused into custody. We are conducting our investigation and we will soon prepare a chargesheet against him.”, says Upper SP Balwant Chaudhry. It is possible that the perpetrator has a history of similar previous offences.
In a village such as this, superstition runs rampant. Lack of education and absent medical facilities make people like the tantric very powerful, who are followed blindly by the villagers. The police have been trying to run some awareness programs that can dispel such myths and help people become more aware of what to believe. “We are also planning to conduct an awareness program in villages where such cases are frequent, on debunking superstitions and on being aware against these lies as they will only hurt themselves.”, says Upper SP Chaudhary.
Superstition has deep roots in Bundelkhand and a lack of awareness and literacy has kept the blind beliefs alive far longer than they should have. Sexual violence and rape are all too often conducted under these beliefs especially targeted towards the weaker sections of the society like women and children.