An unelected, all-male village council in India has decided to punish a man who eloped with a married woman by ordering his two sisters to be raped. The two women, ages 23 and 15, fled their village in the Baghpat district after the decision was handed down on July 30.
The Times of India reports that the brother ran away with a woman who belonged to a higher caste.
Now, a petition from Amnesty International is calling on the Indian Supreme Court to help the sisters return home. The NGO has slammed the "disgusting ruling," made by a so-called kangaroo court. These tribunals operate outside of the country's legitimate legal system, Amnesty International said.
"More often than not they are made up of older men from dominant castes, who prescribe rules for social behavior and interaction in villages," the group said.
Other family members who fled with the sisters say they fear for their lives should they return, and their home has already been looted by other villagers. According to Amnesty International, they have filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking for protection, and say they've also experienced harassment from local police.
The petition has garnered more than 40,000 signatures in protest of the rape punishment. The unelected council also mandated that the sisters be paraded naked with blackened faces around their town.
Despite government efforts to address India's high levels of rape, sentences from local tribunals have continued. A similar incident made headlines last year when a 20-year-old woman was ordered to be gang-raped after village elders objected to her relationship with another man. The unofficial court said her actions violated local codes, the BBC reported at the time.
The Washington Post notes the number of reported rape cases in India skyrocketed nearly 900 percent in the 40 years leading up to 2012, when nearly 25,000 incidents were reported. The outlet cites a societal disregard for sexual violence, a lack of police action and familial pressure to keep rape quiet as a trifecta of opposition towards further action against the crime.
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