An unelected all-male village council in India has ordered that 23-year-old Meenakshi Kumari and her 15-year-old sister are raped. The ‘sentence’ was handed down as punishment after their brother eloped with a married woman. They also ordered for the sisters to be paraded naked with blackened faces.So what's going on here is a collective punishment of the family for the sins of one of its members -- very similar to the kind of tribal fighting we saw in Iraq. You can't punish the brother because he's gone, so you punish someone else in the family. The brother was more important in his society than his sisters, so you punish two of them to try to 'even out' the offense done to the other clan.
If you asked them about the justice of punishing these two girls, they would say they weren't punishing them at all. They are punishing the family. If you didn't punish the family through this judicial process, they'd add, the other clan -- which is larger and stronger than the offending clan -- would exact an extrajudicial revenge that would be harsher, and which would probably lead to a cycle of violence. This will put a stop to the blood feud that would otherwise result. It is, in their minds, the least bad solution to a violation of a marriage contract by a member of a junior clan.
We should obviously try to stop this, but we should also understand the forces at work. In stopping it, we are guaranteeing the cycle of violence that the court is trying to avoid. Maybe that's OK -- maybe we are willing for all of these people to die, rather than that they should carry on living as they do. If you don't come with a solution that the clans will accept, though, you're saving the girls at the expense of someone else. Maybe more someones. Maybe a lot more.