A YOUNG woman has been gang-raped by up to 13 men on the orders of a village court simply because she fell in love with a man from a different religion.
Published: Thu, January 23, 2014
When their illicit affair was discovered, an illegal village council known as a ‘khap panchayat’ was convened.
These kangaroo courts often act to settle rural disputes ranging from land and cattle issues to matrimony and murder.
But such councils are coming under growing scrutiny as their punitive edicts grow more regressive – ranging from banning women from wearing western clothing and using mobile phones to supporting child marriage and sanctioning the lynching of young couples in so-called “honour killings”.
In the latest case, the unnamed woman’s family was ordered to pay 25,000 rupees (£240).
But they said they were too poor, the court decreed the young lady should be raped by local men, all of whom have now been arrested.
The 13 accused have appeared in court following the January 20th attack and have been remanded in custody.
Today Divya Iyer, Senior Researcher at Amnesty International India, said:
“The West Bengal police must thoroughly investigate this alleged gang rape, and bring to justice those responsible. The authorities must also ensure that the woman and her family receive immediate and adequate police protection.
“Any person found guilty of inciting violence against the woman must be held accountable.
“Khap panchayats notoriously issue extra-legal decrees ordering inhuman and sexually violent punishments against women, including ‘honour’ killings.
“The authorities must ensure that women’s rights to choose their partners are respected and protected, and take steps to end discrimination and violence against women.”
India’s Supreme Court has in the past issued opinions condemning the councils as illegal bodies.
Several legal organisations are now pushing Parliament to pass a comprehensive law that would make edicts by local councils illegal.
Annie Raja, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, added that such local councils destroy women’s rights.
“They are dead set against giving basic human rights to women,” she said. “These are non-constitutional bodies and the West Bengal government should take stringent action against them.”
Subalpur village is in the Birbhum district, around 110 miles from the West Bengal state capital Kolkata, formerly Calcutta.
Four years ago in the same district a khap panchayat ordered a young woman to parade naked around the village after she was accused of falling in love with a man from a different caste.
In October, a teenager was gang-raped on two consecutive days in a Kolkata suburb. She was later set on fire when she refused to withdraw a police complaint against the men who had raped her. She died in a hospital last month leading to widespread protests in the city.
Earlier this month, a 51-year-old Danish tourist was gang-raped in New Delhi by five men when she stopped to ask them for directions to her hotel.