Thousands of women in state capitals throughout India Ð including New Delhi and Chennai Ð demonstrated yesterday, denouncing the violence committed against women in Gujarat following the religious riots in late February. The protests, which included sit-ins and public meetings, highlighted the continued reluctance of Gujarat police to register complaints of sexual abuse. Brinda Karat, general-secretary of the prominent women’s group All India Democratic Women’s Association, explained, “The law usually requires a medical report to determine rape. But in a situation like Gujarat, medical reports are not there because women who have been sexually abused have had no access to doctors.”
Many women’s rights groups called Gujarat a display of “unprecedented violence.” Eight hundred people died during the religious rioting. According to Sehba Farroqi, head of the National Federation of Indian Women, “Éin the carnage, hundreds of women were killed or raped.” In its report released in April, the anti-sectarian campaigns group Communalism Combat estimated 3,000 Muslim deaths Ð 250 to 300 of which were also rape victims. Various women’s and human rights groups, including Joint Women’s Programme, Saheli, The Muslim Women’s Forum, and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, called for justice in Gujarat.