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The Indian girls who survived being raped

January 27, 2016 ·  By India for www.bbc.com

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Photographer Smita Sharma has been chronicling the lives of rape victims in India for years.

Helped by local health workers and non-governmental organisations, Ms Sharma has travelled the length and breadth of the country to meet survivors of rape and record their stories.

The subjects of the photographs, many of them children, have not been identified. All names have been changed in this article.

The gang rape and murder of a student in 2012 in Delhi led to protests and new anti-rape laws in the country. However, brutal sexual attacks against women and children continue to be reported. More than 35,000 rapes were recorded in India in 2014.


Manali, 13

1

Manali was kidnapped by a man from a neighbouring village to hers, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The man who belongs to the Yadav community and has financial influence, raped her behind a railway station in the western state of Maharashtra.

Manali ran away from her trafficker before he could sell her to a brothel and reported the incident to the railway police.

But instead of taking action on her behalf, Manali was held in custody for 12 days while they tried to get her to retract her complaint.


Rithika, 15

2

In 2011 Rithika was repeatedly raped by a man from her village when she went into the forest to defecate.

Her mother found her bleeding in the forest and immediately took her to the police station, but the police refused to file a complaint.

Rithika now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has not spoken since the incident.

In India, almost 60% of rural households lack access to toilets, making women vulnerable to sexual assault.


Vidya, 17

3

Vidya was abducted by a man belonging to the higher caste Brahmin community while she was on her way back home from school in Robertsganj in Uttar Pradesh.

She was taken to a nearby pond and raped.

Vidya’s family supported her, immediately taking her for medical tests and to lodge a police complaint.

The perpetrator has been on the run since.
Vidya has dropped out of school as a result of the trauma and stigma she suffered from the incident.


Karishma, 17

4

Karishma was raped by her landlord’s son in 2008.

She remained silent out of shame and fear. After becoming pregnant as a result of the rape, Karishma’s mother threw her out of the house.

She was later pressured to marry her rapist by a local political party.

Karishma refused to withdraw the case or marry him.

Originally from a suburban West Bengal town, she now lives in Kolkata (Calcutta) with her son and works as a hair stylist at a salon.


Neha, 20

5

After Neha was raped eight years ago by a man from her community, her family and neighbours forced her to marry him.

As a result of the rape, she gave birth to a son, but was never accepted as a wife by her attacker.

A year after the incident, her family lodged a police complaint and took him to court.

Neha makes puffed rice for a living, working up to 16 hours a day and earns 400 rupees (£4; $7) a week.


Varsha, 15

6

When this picture was taken, Varsha was being escorted into the District Court of Rajmahal in Jharkhand by a woman police constable so that she could testify about what had happened to her.

Varsha was raped by a man who used to frequent the mango orchard she was working in. She was threatened to remain silent, but her silence encouraged the man to rape her again.

She finally told her family about the rape, and they lodged a police complaint.

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