7-Year-Old Victim in School Bathroom at Center of India's Growing Rape Protests

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The emotional divide between increasingly ugly new accusations and apparently unflinching politicians expanded on Tuesday, as thousands of protestors took to the Indian state of Goa over reports that seven-year-old girl was raped in a school restroom Monday night. "A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the youngster was raped after being dragged inside the toilet situated next to the headmistress's office during a break in classes," reads the report from the Associated Foreign Press. According to the Times of India, which adds more detail to this seemingly unbelievable story by way of anonymous sources, the principal may have actually exchanged words with the suspect:

Sources said that after recess as teachers returned to classes, one of the teachers saw the accused along with the girl. Sources said the principal also questioned the boy and he told her he had come to meet a student.

The girl returned to the class after recess and complained to her teacher of pain and of being "pinched". The matter was referred to the principal who enquired into the matter along with other teachers.

Both the AFP the the Times of India explain that the girl was taken for a medical examination at around 6:15 p.m. Monday night, and that doctors confirmed she had been abused. Protests in Goa began shortly after, but they spilled well into Tuesday, as protesters demanded punishment for the principal. "The headmistress has been detained on charges of negligence in Vasco town," reports the BBC, but the suspect remains at large. Police are hunting the suspect based on the seven-year-old's account — the AFP describes the suspect as a man in his 20s who snuck onto school grounds. "We will not spare the accused and anyone involved in this crime," Goa's Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told a crowd of protesters.

The latest attack comes after reports of another gang rape of a woman on a bus in India on Friday, which came after weeks of protests centering on a different gang rape, the attack of Jyoti Singh Pandey, whose injuries after an attack on a bus eventually led to her death on December 28 and sparked a national debate that has attracted international attention.

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What the debate hasn't done, apparently, is reform the views of all of India's politicians, attorneys, and so-called rape apologists. Comments like these have been cited by protestors as the reason they won't stop taking to the streets:

  • On January 7, Hindu leader Asaram Bapu said that Pandey was to blame. "Only five to six people are not the culprits. The victim is as guilty as her rapists. She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop," Bapu said.
  • On January 9, Manohar Lal Sharma, the lawyer for Pandey's accused rapists, said that no "respected" woman gets raped. "Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady," he said. "Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect."
  • On January 10, a member of India's Bharatiya Janata Party, one of India two main political parties, had these words after he was told of another, different rape involving minors at a government-run school. Ramesh Bais said (via India Today):

"The rape of grown-up girls and women might be understandable but if someone does this to an infant, it is a heinous crime and the offenders should be hanged (barabari ya bade logo ke sath balatkar samajh me ata hai, lekin nabalig bachhiyo ke sath is tarah ka jaghanya apradh karma. Inko to fasi par latka dena chahiye)."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.