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Indian woman says gang rape was result of village court order

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 24th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's yet another reminder that the nation of India has a long way to go in terms of basic human rights: A 20-year-old woman in eastern India claims that she was gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of a village court. She says it was her punishment for having a relationship with a man from a different community.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The victim told police that she was assaulted by the men on the night of January 20 in Birbhum district in West Bengal. The woman is now recovering in hospital.

The victim's male companion was tied up in the village square, while the assault on the woman happened in a mud house.

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"We arrested all the 13 men, including the village chief who ordered the gang rape. The accused have been produced in court which remanded them to jail custody," Birbhum's Superintendent of Police, C. Sudhakar told reporters.

India has since toughened laws on sex crimes after the fatal gang rape of a physiotherapist on a moving bus in Delhi in December of 2012. The case galvanized a national debate about gender inequalities in India.

A 51-year-old Danish tourist was also reportedly gang-raped in central Delhi this month by at least five men whom she had asked for directions.

The West Bengal victim's family told media that she was assaulted because the court believed she had violated the rules of her tribe by falling in love with a man from another community.

The couple was ordered to pay a fine of $400 in U.S. dollars, the victim's mother says, adding that the village head then ordered the rape of her daughter.

It's all part of a long and ugly history about rural India. Human rights groups say kangaroo courts are not uncommon in more isolated regions.

In northern parts of India, illegal village councils known as "Khap Panchayats" act as de-facto courts settling rural disputes on everything from land and cattle to matrimony and murder.

Such councils are being cracked down upon as their punitive edicts grow more regressive. Infractions range from the banning of western clothing by women, to using mobile phones to sanctioning the lynching of young couples in so-called "honor killings."

West Bengal recorded the highest number of gender crimes in the country at 30,942 in 2012 - 12.7 percent of India's total recorded crimes against women. These crimes include rape, kidnapping and sexual harassment and molestation.

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