Woman was for having relationship outside community
About a dozen men allegedly gang-raped a 20-year-old woman in eastern India on the orders of village elders, police said on Thursday.
The woman was sexually assaulted in the Birbhum district of West Bengal state on Tuesday night, for having a relationship with a man from another community, police said.
Police arrested 13 men, including the village headman who was said to have ordered the rape, district deputy police Chief Prasanta Chowdhury said.
The villagers denied the rape accusations.
Police said doctors had indicated the woman was raped, but a full medical report is yet to be released. They said she had been in a relationship with a man from a different religion.
Mr. Chowdhury said the headman convened the “court” at the village square after the couple was spotted together.
“The girl and her companion were tied to two separate trees and fined 25,000 rupees (N64, 500) each for having the affair. When her parents said they were unable to pay the fine, the headman ordered that she should be raped by villagers as punishment,” Mr. Chowdhury said.
The woman told reporters that she was moved to a small hut where she was assaulted by the men.
“Following (the headman’s) orders, at least 10-12 people including members of a single family, continuously raped me. I lost count of how many times I was raped,” she told broadcaster NDTV.
The crime, in the home district of President Pranab Mukherjee, drew anger from women’s rights activists.
“We will ensure that the perpetrators of the crime, including the headman are meted out the harshest punishment,” Sunanda Mukherjee, the head of the West Bengal Commission for Women, told the IANS news agency.
“We should have them arrested and give them corporal punishment,” Bengal Governor, MK Narayanan said.
Unofficial courts are not uncommon in Indian villages, where community leaders have sanctioned killings of couples for reasons including marrying outside their caste.
Women rights activist, Annie Raja, told reporters that authorities should ban such village courts as “anti-women” and “anti-constitution.”
The crime is the latest in a series of high-profile alleged gang rapes in India, and comes thirteen months after the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi led to protests across the country and international outrage.
But despite the introduction of stricter punishments for rape, activists say little has changed in attitudes towards sexual assault, and attacks on women, including foreign nationals, continue.
In December, a teenager was gang-raped and was burnt to death in West Bengal, sparking angry protests in state capital Kolkata.
Last week, a Danish woman was allegedly gang-raped and robbed in Delhi after she lost her way back to her hotel.