NEW DELHI —
In northern India, two teenage girls have been found hanging from a tree after allegedly being gang-raped. One person has been arrested in connection with the brutal attack, which has once again turned the focus on crimes against women.
The crime took place in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh state -- a region where law and order has always been poor.
The 14- and 15-year-old cousins disappeared from the fields near their home in Badaun district. They were later found hanging from a mango tree in an orchard early Wednesday. Their brother said that they had gone out because there was no toilet in their house. They were from a poor, low-caste family.
Police said the girls had been gang-raped and strangled. One man was detained on Thursday after a day of angry protests by villagers, who stood under the tree demanding justice.
Villagers allege police were slow in taking action and did not pay heed to their initial complaint. Three policemen have been suspended for not registering cases when the girls were initially reported missing.
Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav spoke briefly to reporters. Yadav said his government is constantly working to improve the law and order situation.
Women's rights activists have expressed shock at the alleged involvement of police in the attack.
A member of India's National Commission for Women, Nirmala Samant, called it a horrific crime. She said the commission was sending a team to investigate.
Samant said they would take action to see that the accused are apprehended. She said they would focus on ensuring that justice is meted out to policemen who were involved or negligent in the crime.
A brutal gang rape
in the Indian capital in December 2012 prompted the government to tighten laws and make rape punishable by death. But the stricter measures appear to have done little to stem violence against women. Reports of sexual assault have continued to pour in from all parts of the country - whether from remote villages or big cities like India's financial hub Mumbai or the capital New Delhi.
Some say the higher reports of rape are partly due to more victims having the courage to report a crime which was seldom spoken of earlier for fear it would damage a girl’s reputation.
The latest attack puts pressure on India’s new government to do more to ensure the safety of women. The now-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party under Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged during its campaign to lift the status of women in India. But activists say they want to see concrete steps on the ground to fulfill that promise.