Ex-lawmaker from India’s ruling party found guilty of rape

A former lawmaker from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been found guilty of raping and kidnapping a teenager in 2017, in a high-profile case that triggered widespread public anger about the sexual abuse of women.

Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who was a legislator in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, will be sentenced on Tuesday. He has always denied the charges.

The victim, who was 17 at the time and cannot be named under Indian law, alleged in 2018 that Sengar, a local lawmaker in her district, attacked her the previous year.

She says that she was taken to his home on June 4, 2017, on the pretext of being hired for a job. The woman says she was then repeatedly gang-raped at the property over several days.

From the outset, the victim and her family repeatedly alleged intimidation by local police and threats from Sengar’s family. According to court documents, police officers allegedly picked up the girl on June 20, 2017, and, as they drove her to the police station, repeatedly threatened violence against her father if she spoke out.

Widespread anger

After the family filed a complaint in April 2018, the girl’s father was assaulted — allegedly by associates of Sengar. He later died of his injuries.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also filed charges against five people for murder, rioting, voluntarily causing hurt, breaching peace, and criminal intimidation in relation to the April 2018 incident.

In a bid to draw attention to her case, the girl attempted to set herself on fire outside the residence of the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, but was stopped by onlookers.

In July, the girl was severely injured in a road accident after the car she was in collided with a truck in northern Uttar Pradesh.

After public anger, and opposition parties accusing the BJP of protecting Sengar, the party expelled him in August, Reuters reported.

India has been grappling with the issue of sexual violence for decades.

Despite the introduction of stricter laws in recent years, around 100 sexual assaults are reported to police in India each day, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. There were nearly 39,000 alleged attacks in 2016, an increase of 12% over the previous year.