In another shocking sexual crime out of India, a village leader reportedly ordered the "revenge rape" of a 14-year-old girl whose brother was accused of trying to assault a neighbor's wife.
The woman's husband carried out the rape Monday, dragging the girl through the lower-caste village in broad daylight and assaulting her in a nearby forest, according to news reports quoting the man's wife, the girl's family, villagers and police.
Nakabandi Pasi and his father-in-law, the village elder who allegedly sanctioned the girl's rape, have been arrested. Police have also detained the teen's brother, Harendra Pasi, over the attempted assault of Nakabandi's wife last weekend. The two men are not related.
It's the second time this year that local leaders in rural India have ordered a rape as punishment. In January, in West Bengal, village elders approved the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman in love with a man from another town.
Male-run local councils regularly dictate social norms, control marriages and settle disputes, and Indian women are battling a deep-rooted culture of rape and sexual harassment that has been tolerated. The nation has been shocked by several notorious deadly gang rapes, including two teen sisters who were hung from a tree and a woman who died after being brutally assaulted while riding a New Delhi bus.
This week's assaults occurred in the village of Gulgulia, in coal-rich Bokaro, located in eastern Jharkhand state near one of India's biggest iron-and-steel plants. The village is home to Indians classified as Dalits, the lowest in the country's caste system.
In an interview with the Indian Express, Nakabandi's wife said her attacker entered their house just after midnight Sunday and tried to rape her. She said her husband was sleeping outside.
"He forcefully tried to disrobe me and had a knife with him," she told the paper. "The brother ran away when I started screaming."
Some other Indian news outlets described the alleged attack with euphemisms. The Hindustan Timeswrites that Harendra "tried to outrage the modesty" of Nakabandi's wife, while CNN-IBN TV said the suspect was "accused of misbehaving with a female neighbor."
Monday evening, villagers reported, the woman's husband publicly confronted his father-in-law, Ghosal Pasi, and demanded permission to rape the man's sister, who was initially reported to be 10 years old. After conferring with other village officials, Ghosal approved the retaliatory rape, witnesses said.
Nakabandi's wife explained that "when the girl was walking towards the village after collecting water, my husband caught hold of her, took her into the forest and raped her."
Although she defended her husband's actions, she said her father had no knowledge of the attack and did not approve it.
The girl's mother pleaded with the council and her neighbors to stop the attack.
"We begged with folded hands but they would not listen. They dragged her away to the forest," she told CNN-IBN.
Neighbor Sulochana Devi said "the whole village saw the girl being dragged" away.
"Nobody — including me — dared intervene," she told the Express, calling Ghosal "a dangerous man."
An hour after the attack, the victim's father, a coal scavenger, and her mother found her bleeding from the attack. They then walked about 90 minutes to the nearest police station.
Contrary to the Nakabandi''s wife's story, the victim's father told the Express that the couple entered his house and that she grabbed his daughter and told her husband "to seek revenge as my son had taken her honor."
Police confirmed the girl was attacked in retaliation.
"We are taking this case very seriously," Jitendra Singh, a top police official, told the Associated Press on Friday. He said charges would be filed in the next few days.
A doctor said the girl was released Wednesday after treatment but readmitted that night because of renewed bleeding.
"She has been struggling to walk," said Shiwani Singh, the attending physician.
The girl may be discharged Saturday.