A 20-year-old woman in eastern India was gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of a village court as punishment for having a relationship with a man from a different community, The Irish Independent reports.
The woman, who is now recovering in hospital, told police she was assaulted by the men on the night of Jan. 20 in Birbhum district in West Bengal.
Police said that her male companion was tied up in the village square, while the assault on the woman happened in a mud house.
“We arrested all the 13 men, including the village chief who ordered the gang rape. The accused have been produced in court which remanded them to jail custody,” Birbhum’s Superintendent of Police, C. Sudhakar, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The West Bengal victim’s family told media that she was assaulted because the court believed she had violated the rules of her tribe by falling in love with a man from another community.
The couple were ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 rupees (£500) and when they were unable to pay the fine, the village head then ordered the rape of the woman.
In northern parts of India, illegal village councils known as “Khap Panchayats” act as de-facto courts settling rural disputes on everything from land and cattle to matrimony and murder.
Those councils have, however, been 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”.