A 20-year-old tribal woman was gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of the head of a village council in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal.
The woman, who has been admitted to a hospital in critical condition, was gang-raped on Monday in Birbhum district, about 120 miles from Kolkata, as a form of punishment sanctioned by an informal village court, reportedly for falling in love with a non-tribal man from an adjoining village.
According to local reports, the woman reportedly told the police: “The [village headmaster] ordered that I be ‘enjoyed’ by the men of the village. Following his orders, at least 10-12 people, including [some] members of a single family, continuously raped me. I lost count of how many times I was raped.”
According to The Times of India, the informal court ordered the woman to pay a fine of about $400 for her relationship. But, when the girl could not pay the fine, the court decreed that she be raped by the village's men.
“We have arrested 13 people and they are being presented before a court where we will seek their custody,” C. Sudhakar, superintendent of police, reportedly said.
Shashi Panja, a minister in the state government, also reportedly said that they would provide the woman with security if she wished to return home after being discharged from the hospital.
The girl, after being gang-raped, was reportedly threatened by her attackers not to report her ordeal while the villagers have denied such an incident ever took place. But, on Wednesday, the woman along with her family filed a report against the men.
“Though her condition continues to be critical, she is stable now. She has lost a lot of blood and only because she is physically and mentally very strong, she could survive the ordeal,” Asit Biswas, the superintendent of Suri Sadar Hospital, where the girl is admitted, told The Times of India.
Sunanda Mukherjee, chairperson for the state commission for women, told local media that the state is investigating the matter and promised that "the perpetrators of the crime, including the tribal headman who ordered the barbarism, is meted out harshest punishment.”
The tribal girl’s plight again highlights the question of women's security in the country, which has been in the spotlight since the rape and murder of a woman on a moving bus in New Delhi in December 2012.
The news of this incident comes three days after a fitness centre employee was gang-raped in a moving vehicle in the heart of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state. Earlier in January, a Danish tourist was gang-raped in New Delhi.