"I was coming back from the winter festival with two other friends. A group of boys chased us. I ran, fell down. They hit me with a stone. I fell down and then they tore my clothes and raped me. I recognised two boys," the survivor said.
Bleeding and semi-conscious, she was brought home by two boys she recognised. Her parents are still in a shock. "It is a shame that boys from our community did this. My daughter should get justice," her mother said.
All the 16 boys have been arrested. Eight of them are in juvenile custody and eight in jail. The trial has begun, but Williamnagar does not have a fast-track court. "People are less bothered. They don't feel angry it seems. We came for a public protest. But nobody came out. We even called them with a microphone. Nobody came out," said PMDR member Jaynie Ninring.
Between 2002 and June 2012, there have been 830 cases of rapes in Meghalaya. For a matrilineal society these are very disturbing numbers. Lalnuthari D Shira of Sentinel for Human Rights, Garo Hills, said, "In reality we are not safe and this word matrilineal is not safeguarding us. In 2002, one girl was picked up by a group of boys in a van. She was raped, gangraped and dropped under a bridge. Till date we are waiting for justice."
There are cases where minor girls have been raped and murdered. The Williamnagar rape victim has been given a compensation of only Rs 25,000 rupees. Activists claim this is the only instance of compensation in Garo Hills. "What do I say about compensation? What can we do? I want life imprisonment for those 16," said the father of the survivor.
These rapes not only break the myth about the safety of women in a matrilineal society but they also point out to the complete absence of a collective voice against such crimes.