Indian council 'ordered rape'
Published 11/07/2014 | 12:33
A 14-year-old girl was dragged into a forest and raped on the orders of a village council in remote eastern India in retaliation for a sex assault blamed on her brother, according to police and relatives.
Local police officials said three men had been arrested, including the village elder and the main suspect, identified as the husband of the woman who was allegedly attacked by the victim's brother.
The victim's mother told CNN-IBN news channel that she pleaded with the council and other villagers when they ordered the rape but no one listened.
The incident took place in a village in Jharkhand state's Bokaro district.
The girl's mother said: "We kept begging them. We begged with folded hands but they would not listen. They dragged her away to the forest."
Police said: "They attacked her in retaliation and we are taking this case very seriously." A spokesman added that officers expect to complete the investigation and file charges in the next few days.
Across much of rural India, deeply conservative local councils wield great power. They can pass decrees on any subject they choose - from how women dress to whether young lovers deserve to live or die. They usually enforce strict social norms about marriage and gender roles.
In January, a council of elders in West Bengal state ordered the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman as punishment for falling in love with a man from a different community.
The village councils are often the only practical means of delivering justice in areas where local governments are either too far away or too ineffective to settle disputes. Their power is often derived from the fact that they can order that villagers be ostracised for ignoring their decrees.
In some of the most extreme cases, the councils have sanctioned so-called honour killings, usually against men and women suspected of extra-marital sex or marrying outside the community.