Refugee Woman Savagely Assaulted in Delhi
30 March 2010: A Chin refugee woman and a mother of two small children was sexually assaulted and brutally beaten up by a group of four local Indians in New Delhi yesterday. The incident is sending shockwave across the refugee community and sparking renewed fears for the safety of refugee women living in Delhi.
The sexual assault and violent beating occurred on the evening of March 29 in Citapuri neighborhood of west Delhi as the 32 year-old mother was returning home from work at around 7:00 pm local time. Ms. Sui Tin Lem was on the way to her house after separating from two other co-workers when four local Indians accosted her and started teasing her. When she started resisting, two of the men grasped her hands while the other two started sexually assaulting her. As she tried to struggle, her assailants smashed her with a rod across the face, leaving her with broken bones on her cheek and jaw.
“I screamed out for help but no one turned out to help me even though some local people were around to witness what they were doing to me,” she recounts her ordeal. “I later managed to run way towards home but fell down on the street and fainted from losing too much blood. Two local policemen saw me lying on the street but they left me be as I couldn’t explain to them what had just happened.”
Several hours later at 4:00 am in the morning, she was discovered by a Chin community member who happened to pass by the area. She was immediately rushed to the Deen Dayal Apadhyay government hospital, but was turned away apparently because the hour for patient admission had passed.
She is now being treated at her home with the help of the local charitable organization New Delhi Young Men Christian Association (ND-YMCA). She is now in serious conditions.
Ms. Sui Tin Lem and her two children arrived in Delhi only less than two months ago from Burma’s Chin State. They have been registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in New Delhi, but a final determination of their refugee status is pending. They do not receive any assistance from UNHCR while they await the results on their refugee claims.
Ms. Sui Tin Lem is the latest victim in increasing incidents of physical assault and sexual harassment perpetrated against Burmese refugee women by local Indian men who see them as easy prey in recent years. It also represents part of a larger problem faced by the urban-dwelling refugee community who are left to fend for themselves with little protection and assistance.
A 2009 report by Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) “Waiting on the Margins: An Assessment of the Situations of Chin Refugees in Delhi, India” found that Chin refugees living in Delhi are vulnerable to exploitations as they have very little access to physical protection and social assistance from the Indian government or from the UN refugee agency.