KOLKATA, India (AP) — Police in India’s West Bengal state said Thursday that a young woman has been gang raped on the orders of a village council because she fell in love with a man from a different religion.
Police official C. Sudhakar said that 13 men have been arrested in connection with the case.
The woman told police that the village council in Subalpur village ordered her to pay a fine for having an affair with the man. When her family said they were too poor to pay, council ordered the gang rape.
Sudhakar said the woman said she lost count of how many men raped her during the night-long ordeal that occurred Monday.
The woman was in a hospital in the state’s Birbhum district where doctors said her condition was serious.
Subalpur is about 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.
A rash of high-profile rapes in India over the past year has sparked widespread outrage over chronic sexual violence in India and government failures to protect women.
The West Bengal case is particularly troubling because the alleged rape apparently was sanctioned by a council made up of village elders. Such councils are not legally binding in India, but they are seen as the will of the local community. The councils decide on social norms in the village and in some villages prescribe the way women can dress, or who they can marry. Those who flout the councils risk being ostracized.
Last month, India marked the one-year anniversary of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in New Delhi that triggered nationwide protests.
The outrage spurred the government to adopt more stringent laws that doubled prison terms for rape to 20 years and criminalized voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women. Fast-track courts have been created for rape cases.