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13 men jailed 20 years over gang-rape of tribal woman

KOLKATA, Sept 20, 2014:

An Indian court today sentenced 13 people, including a village headman, to 20 years in jail for gang-raping a tribal woman as a punishment for “dishonouring” her community.

The 20-year-old woman was gang-raped on orders from tribal village elders who objected to her relationship with a man from a different community.

The attack took place in January in a remote village in eastern West Bengal state, where the unmarried woman from the Santhal group, one of India’s largest tribes, was suspected of having a relationship with a man from another village.

All the 13 accused were found guilty on charges of gang-rape, wrongful confinement and voluntarily causing hurt, lawyers said.

“The case ended within eight months. The accused were found guilty on the basis of medical reports and statements of 31 witnesses,” prosecution lawyer Mohammed Samsul Zoha told AFF by telephone from the city of Bolpur where the court hearing was held.

Bolpur lies some 160km from West Bengal state capital Kolkata.

The incident was one of a string highlighting India’s failure to stem sexual violence in the wake of the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, which sparked angry protests about the treatment of women.

Tribal or caste-based village councils composed of male elders wield enormous influence over rural life, particularly in northern India. They often issue punishments for moral and other perceived offences.

The incident happened in the village of Subalpur, 240km west of Kolkata, after the couple were found together.

The pair were tied to two separate trees and asked to pay a fine of 25,000 rupees (US$411) each for having the alleged affair, police said at the time.

The man was freed after he agreed to pay the fine within a week, but the woman was taken to a shed where she was gang-raped, police said.

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