Graphic mobile phone clips of gang rapes are being sold in shops in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, as a spate of rapes in one of the country’s most violent states has sparked anger and calls for the chief minister to step down. The clips, which last 30 seconds to five minutes, are being sold in the “hundreds, perhaps thousands, every day”, the Times of India reported. They cost 50-150 rupees ($0.75-$2) each.

“We are aware. We are taking necessary action. But it is difficult, as the sales are happening below the counter,” Ajay Sharma, a deputy inspector general of police in the city of Agra, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In recent weeks, several gang rapes have been reported in Uttar Pradesh, which ranks among the most unsafe for women.

Last week, a woman and her 14-year-old daughter were dragged from their vehicle at gunpoint on a major highway and gang-raped for hours in nearby fields. Local media reported that initially the police did not respond to a call for help.

The daily Indian Express reported that this week another woman was gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh, and said the incident had been recorded on a mobile phone.

Increasingly, perpetrators are recording their crimes on mobile phones to use as a blackmailing tool and to dissuade victims from going to the police, the Times of India said.  Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has come under fire over the rise in violent crimes against women, with #LawlessUP trending on Twitter this week. In 2014, there were 337,922 reports of violence against women including rape, molestation and abduction, a 9 percent increase on the previous year, according to official data.

Rape victims in India suffer enormous stigma and endure an archaic and insensitive criminal justice system, women’s rights activists say.

During lengthy trials, victims and their witnesses are sometimes intimidated by the accused who, in some cases, are granted bail by the court. A wave of public protests following the fatal gang-rape of a woman on a Delhi bus in December 2012 prompted the government to enact stiffer penalties, including the death sentence for repeat rape offenders and the criminalisation of stalking.

Stalker sets schoolgirl on fire in deadly attack

The death of a schoolgirl three days after she was set on fire by a stalker in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has sparked outrage from activists who said the law was failing victims of unwanted advances from men.

In a statement to the police before she died, the 17-year-old said the man walked into her house in Villupuram on Monday, set himself on fire and hugged her, all the while saying that he would not let her live for spurning him.

“She said he had stalked her for over a year and she had said no repeatedly,” police inspector Senthil Vinayakan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “The man has been booked for a similar offence earlier and had even spent time in jail. But no one anticipated this and now they are both dead.” The incident comes a month after a software engineer was hacked to death in broad daylight at a train station in the port city of Chennai. The man arrested for her murder had been stalking her for months, police said.

“Women, especially young girls, are more at risk today,” said U.Vasuki of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA). “The fact that they have a right to reject just as a man has a right to propose seems to be becoming irrelevant.” Nearly four out of five women in India have faced public harassment ranging from staring, insults and wolf-whistling to being followed, groped or raped, said a recent survey by the charity ActionAid UK.

There were 337,922 reports of crimes against women such as rape, molestation, abduction and sexual offences in 2014, up nine percent from the previous year, according to the latest data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau.

Protests after the fatal gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus in December 2012 forced the government to enact stiffer penalties on gender crimes, which included criminalising stalking and voyeurism.

The amended law spelled out that sexual offences would include physical contact, advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures and a demand or request for sexual favours among other acts.

“But the law is failing to protect these young girls,” Vasuki said, citing the case of a girl in Trichy stabbed inside her college campus for refusing the advances of a man earlier this year.

Similarly in March, in southern state of Andhra Pradesh, a teenage girl with 90 percent burns died just hours after she complained to the police about being stalked.

“Stalking is taken for granted in most cases, a sort of inconvenience that women are expected to put up with,” said advocate Sudha Ramalingam.

“Though the new law has up to a five-year jail term for a repeat offender, not many families are encouraging their girls to file police complaints because of societal pressure and sometimes violent consequences.”

 Reuters