Thursday 19 October 2017

Punishment rape took place in front of villagers

Indian police personnel escort men (tied with rope), who are accused of a gang-rape, to a court at Birbhum district in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. Reuters
Indian police personnel escort men (tied with rope), who are accused of a gang-rape, to a court at Birbhum district in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. Reuters

Andrew Buncombe Delhi

INDIA'S highest court has ordered a judicial inquiry into the gang-rape "punishment" of a woman as it emerged that the 20-year-old had been assaulted on a raised platform in front of her entire village.

The woman remains in a serious condition in hospital after a village council ordered her to be gang-raped as a "punishment" for having a relationship with a Muslim man, who was not part of the community.

Police have arrested more than a dozen men, including the headman of the village.

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered a judge to visit the site of the attack and report back.

It described the case as "disturbing" and asked the district judge to file a report within a week.

The court acted amid growing outcry over the incident and the influence of village councils over people in rural areas.

Activists have repeatedly said that politicians do not do enough to speak out against such groups because they rely on them for political support.

"The politicians need to do a lot more," said Kavita Krishnan, of the All India Progressive Women's Association.

"I remember Dr Ambedkar [Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the principal author of the Indian Constitution] saying there was a gap between the constitution and parts of Indian society.

"I think some politicians try and exploit this gap."

The attack, involving up to a dozen men, was carried out after villagers found the woman with the Muslim man on Monday. They tied her to a tree before hastily convening a village council meeting.

The village elders said the man and woman should pay a fine equivalent to €580.

When the couple and the woman's family said they could not pay such a sum, the headman ordered that the woman be gang-raped as a punishment.

The woman was reported as saying: "We were dragged to a gathering where our community headman was present.

"They told me to pay 50,000 rupees. When I said I couldn't, they brutalised me."

Other villagers said the men had erected a bamboo platform on which the gang-rape was carried out.

Police have arrested 13 men who have been brought before a court and remanded in custody.

The assault comes after a spate of high-profile rapes in West Bengal which have brought the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, under fire for not doing enough to stop violence against women.

West Bengal recorded almost 13pc of all gender crimes against women in 2012. (© Independent News Service)

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