A 20-year-old Indian woman is in critical condition after a village council ordered her to be gang-raped as punishment for allegedly having had an affair, news agencies reported Thursday quoting local police.
The horrific punishment was carried out on Monday evening in a village in West Bengal state, after which Indian police arrested the 12 men believed to have attacked her along with the village elder who handed down the judgment.
Bloomberg News reported that she was held captive for more than 12 hours during which she was raped repeatedly by residents of her community.
Police said on Thursday that the gang-rape which was carried out in a shed was preceded by the woman and the man she was accused of having a relationship with being tied to trees as the ruling was delivered.
The French News Agency Agence France-Presse reported that the woman who is a member of the Santhal tribal group and is not married, was accused of having a relationship with a Muslim man from another village.
At first, the council of elders imposed a fine of 25,000 rupees ($400) on her family, but district police superintendent C. Sudhakar said they were unable to pay.
"The girl and her lover were tied to two separate trees and fined 25,000 rupees each as a fine for having an affair," Sudhakar said.
"As the parents of the girl, who were also present at the meeting, expressed their inability to pay the fine, the head of the village council ordered that she should be raped by the villagers as punishment," he said. He said the man was freed after he agreed to pay.
"The relationship was going on for almost five years. When the man visited the woman's home on Monday with the proposal of marriage, villagers spotted him and organized a kangaroo court." Sudhakar told the BBC.
The BBC further reported that the “headman” of the village council who ordered the rape is a distant relative of the woman.
The BBC quoted from the complaint the woman’s family filed which alleged that the headman said to villagers, “Her family could not pay, so go enjoy the girl and have fun.”
The ruling and attack occurred in the village of Subalpur, about 149 miles from Kolkata.
The woman was admitted to a local hospital in critical condition, the BBC reported.
“Tribal or caste-based village councils composed of elders exert enormous influence over rural life, particularly in northern India, often issuing diktats and punishments for moral and other perceived offences,” AFP said.