The horrible old men of the village council

Pic by Lee Pratt in Facebook Hoax
What space remains in my Facebook feed between pictures of drowned children has been filled up by outrage over a village council that ordered two girls to be raped. For instance, Amnesty collects clicks (and money) with this campaign.

People are angry in the comments: "dirty men of village council" order such inhuman punishments, we must stop them! Click to stop it! News outlets pour out more and more indignant comments over this "sentence decided and delivered by an all-male, unofficial council known as a khap panchayat"

This prejudiced comment about dirty old men made me try to inquire whether the council really did order such a rape.

And what I found out is:
Of course, this doesn't guarantee that the girls would be safe; there is plenty of sexual violence in India and the position of dalit people is poor particularly when clans from different castes are in conflict. There might actually be an order to rape someone, but more likely from an furious inebriated guy than a council. Such an order should be met by the fury of the official justice system. Overall, I think that the Western outrage is largely misguided, perhaps intentionally. I can think of a motive: collecting donations.

The one problem that I think is genuine is the slowness and inefficiency of the Indian official justice system. Cases drag on for years and years. That is an issue that would be fair game for a sane social justice warrior. But it's more simple to chant "Click to stop it!" than to say "Let's find a solution for how to make the Indian courts of law work better".

So, it seems to be quite all right to denigrate dirty old men with lies, if the underlying motive is good, getting money for multinational organisations who make a business of this kind of hoaxes. They say they work for human rights, so it must be true? Amnesty "stands by its claims". Of course, because it can.

There is a silver lining to the cloud, though: old-fashioned journalism wins. Thousands of papers, magazines and on-line news outlets have repeated the dubious claim, but Reuters actually sent a journalist on site. A journalist who found out who the people are. Journalist who asked questions. And provided a report.

In my mind, that report gives an outcome 6-0 for Reuters against social justice warriors.

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