KOLKATA, India — A 20-year-old Indian woman said she was gang raped on the orders of a village council because she fell in love with a man from a different ethnic group, police said Thursday.
Police said 13 suspects, including the head of the council, have been arrested for the Monday night attack. The woman told police she lost count of how many men raped her. She was hospitalized Thursday in serious condition.
TV news reports said the woman is a member of an ethnic tribal group and the man is a Muslim from a neighboring village. The man visited the woman's village, Subalpur, on Monday to propose marriage but was caught by other villagers. Then the man and woman were tied to a tree while the village council decided their fate, the reports said.
Police official C. Sudhakar said the village council ordered the man and woman to each pay a fine of 25,000 rupees, about $400. The man's family was able to pay, but when the woman's family said they were too poor the council ordered the gang rape, police said.
A rash of high-profile rapes in India over the past year has sparked widespread outrage over chronic sexual violence and governmental failures to protect women.
The West Bengal case is particularly troubling because it was allegedly ordered by a council made up of village elders. Such councils are not legally binding in India but are seen as the will of the local community. The councils decide on social norms in the village; in some cases, they dictate the way women can dress or who they can marry.