The UN in India Monday voiced concern over the continuing cases of sexual violence against women and girls in the country and said the rape and murder cases in Hathras and Balrampur remind that disadvantaged social groups are at a greater risk of gender-based violence.
The External Affairs Ministry reacted strongly to the statement, saying the UN Resident Coordinator in India should be aware that these cases have been taken extremely seriously by the government and asserted that any unnecessary comments by an external agency are best avoided since the investigation process is still underway.
In a statement, UN Resident Coordinator in India Renata Dessallien said it is essential that authorities ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice speedily and families are empowered to seek timely justice, social support, counselling, healthcare and rehabilitation.
"The UN in India is profoundly saddened and concerned at the continuing cases of sexual violence against women and girls in India, it said.
The recent cases of alleged rape and murder in Hathras and Balarampur are another reminder that despite the impressive progress made on a number of social indicators, women and girls from disadvantaged social groups face additional vulnerabilities and are at greater risk of gender-based violence," it added.
The steps being taken by the Indian government to strengthen safety measures for women and girls are welcome and urgent, the United Nations said.
"We support the Prime Minister's call for strict action against the culprits. Entrenched social norms and behaviour of men and boys that lead to gender-based violence must be addressed," it said.
"The UN stands committed to providing continued support to the government and civil society to address violence against women. As we fight the challenge of COVID-19 with the determination to build back better India, building respectful relationships devoid of prejudices and gender biases is a top priority," it added.
In response to the statement, MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said such incidents have been taken extremely seriously by the government.
"Some unwarranted comments have been made by the UN Resident Coordinator regarding some recent cases of violence against women. UN Resident Coordinator in India should be aware that these cases have been taken extremely seriously by the government," Srivastava said in a statement.
"Since the investigation process is still underway, any unnecessary comments by an external agency are best avoided. The Constitution guarantees equality to all citizens of India. As a democracy we have a time-tested record of providing justice to all sections of our society, he said.
The recent case of violence and sexual assault of a Dalit woman in Hathras has led to nation-wide protests and agitations.
A 19-year-old woman was allegedly raped at a village in Hathras by four men on September 14. She was admitted to Aligarh Muslim University's Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital and later shifted to a Delhi hospital last Monday in an extremely critical condition with spinal injuries, paralysis and cuts in her tongue.
She breathed her last on Tuesday. Her body was cremated in the early hours of Wednesday, with her family alleging that the local police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night.
In Uttar Pradesh's Balrampur district, a 22-year-old Dalit woman died after allegedly being raped by two men.
The victim''s mother has alleged that that the rapists broke the legs and back of her daughter, a charge denied by the police.