January 23, 2014
13 Arrested in West Bengal Gang Rape Case
Authorities in India say 13 people have been arrested after a woman was allegedly gang-raped on orders of a village council because she fell in love with a man from a different ethnic group.
They say the alleged incident took place earlier this week in a remote village in West Bengal state.
Reports from the area suggest that the woman is a member of an ethnic tribal group and the man is a Muslim from a neighboring village.
Kishwar Jahan, a women's rights activist in the state where the attack took place, told VOA's Bangla service that violence against women is on the rise in her state.
"Unfortunately, I cannot deny that atrocities against women have increased and I am sorry to say that West Bengal stood first in atrocities against women in India."
Jahan said this particular act is even more troubling.
"This incident is very unfortunate because those who should look after the people are the ones who have given the order to rape this girl."
The council that allegedly ordered the rape is made up of the village elders. Such councils are not legally binding in India, but are seen as the will of the community.
Police official C. Sudhakar said the village council ordered the man and woman to each pay a fine of 25,000 rupees, or $400. He said the man's family was able to pay, but when the woman's family said it was too poor, the council ordered the gang rape.
Violence against women has received increasing attention in India in the past year. Reports of several gang rapes, including one that resulted in the death of a student in late 2012, have at times brought protesters to the streets, calling for greater law enforcement and tougher punishments for men who harass and attack women.