t least seven men have been arrested in western India after a 16-year-old girl claimed she was raped hundreds of times by hundreds of men in the latest horrifying case to highlight the country’s rampant sexual violence problem.
In a statement to India’s Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on November 11, the girl, who was homeless, said she was raped by 400 people in Beed district of Maharashtra state, according to CWC chairman Abhay Vitthalrao Vanave. She named two policemen in her complaint, Vanave said.
The girl was begging for money at a bus stop when she was allegedly forced into sex work by three men, Vanave said.
While the number of alleged rapists would be difficult to corroborate, the girl could identify at least 25 alleged perpetrators, he added.
The girl had attempted to file a police complaint against a man she accused of beating her up, but officers did not register it, Vanave said.
When contacted by CNN Monday, Beed police did not comment on the girl’s allegations against them.
In a statement Monday, the force said it had registered cases against eight males — including one minor — pertaining to rape and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences law, which has more severe sentences of longer jail time. They have also registered a case under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
The girl told police she was married off at age 13 to a 33-year-old man who sexually abused her, according to the police statement.
She also told police she was sexually assaulted by her father, ultimately prompting her to leave both homes and sleep at the bus stop.
Women’s rights activist Yogita Bhayana said this was “the most tragic (rape) case in history.”
“This girl was tortured every single day,” she said, adding that police had failed to protect her. “We want strict action against all culprits.”
India’s rape crisis
According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, more than 28,000 cases of alleged rape against women were reported in 2020 — one roughly every 18 minutes. Experts believe the real number is much higher as many go unreported out of fear.
The number of reported rapes rose in the years following the brutal 2012 gang rape and murder of a student in India’s capital, New Delhi, potentially because of greater awareness surrounding the issue since. Experts say the outrage has helped to lift the shame around discussing rape.
Legal reforms and more severe penalties for rape were introduced in the aftermath, which include fast-tracking courts to hear rape cases more swiftly, and an amended definition of rape to include anal and oral penetration.
However, high-profile rape cases continue to make headlines. In September this year, police arrested 33 men for the alleged gang rape of a 15-year-old girl in Maharashtra.
In a separate case that month, a woman died after she was allegedly raped and assaulted with an iron rod in Mumbai. And in August this year, a 9-year-old girl was gang-raped and murdered in Delhi.
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