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2 police officers in India among 4 men arrested in rape, killing of teens

By Biswajeet Banerjee

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:48 p.m. HST, May 29, 2014

LUCKNOW, India » Two teenage sisters in rural India were raped and killed by attackers who hung their bodies from a mango tree, which became the scene of a silent protest by villagers angry about alleged police inaction in the case. Two of the four men arrested so far are police officers.

Villagers found the girls' bodies hanging from the tree early Wednesday, hours after they disappeared from fields near their home in Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state, police Superintendent Atul Saxena said. The girls, who were 14 and 15, had gone into the fields because there was no toilet in their home.

Hundreds of angry villagers stayed next to the tree throughout Wednesday, silently protesting the police response. Indian TV footage showed the villagers sitting under the girls' bodies as they swung in the wind, and preventing authorities from taking them down until the suspects were arrested.

Police arrested two police officers and two men from the village later Wednesday and were searching for three more suspects.

Autopsies confirmed the girls had been raped and strangled before being hung, Saxena said.

The villagers accused the chief of the local police station of ignoring a report by the girls' father Tuesday night that the girls were missing. The station chief in Katra, 180 miles southwest of the state capital, Lucknow, has since been suspended.

The family belongs to the Dalit community, also called "untouchables" and considered the lowest rung in India's age-old caste system.

Records show a rape is committed every 22 minutes in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. Activists say that number is low because of an entrenched culture of tolerance for sexual violence, which leads many cases to go unreported. Women are often pressed by family or police to stay quiet about sexual assault, and those who do report it are often subjected to public ridicule or social stigma.

India tightened its anti-rape laws last year, making gang rape punishable by the death penalty, even when the victim survives. The new laws came after the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi that triggered nationwide protests.

Health workers, police and women's rights activists say women and girls face the risk of rape and harassment when they go out into fields or bushes due to the lack of toilets in their homes.

More than a half billion Indians lack access to toilets. A recent study said around 30 percent of women from poor families faced violent sexual assaults every year because they did not have access to a safe toilet.

Last month, the head of Uttar Pradesh state's governing party, the regionally prominent Samajwadi Party, told an election rally that the party was opposed to the law calling for gang rapists to be executed.

"Boys will be boys," Mulayam Singh Yadav said. "They make mistakes."

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false wrote:
I will never travel to such a barbaric country. I pray for those children. May they rest in peace.
on May 29,2014 | 09:35PM
tutulois wrote:
Remind me never to be a woman in India. I'm certainly never going to visit as a tourist. There have been so many horrible stories like this - I can only hope that people there will fight for change, and for justice.
on May 30,2014 | 05:31AM
lowtone123 wrote:
The degradation of women in countries like this are alive and well.
on May 30,2014 | 08:58AM
ryan02 wrote:
I wonder why the US and other western countries don't consider the oppression of women in some of these foreign countries to be just as heinous as the oppression of blacks in South Africa. Where are the boycotts and sanctions and embargoes? I guess since it's just women being oppressed, it's ok.
on May 30,2014 | 10:16AM
ryan02 wrote:
Now the mother of the girls was violently assaulted, because she wouldn't drop the complaint. The mother is in critical condition. http://news.yahoo.com/rape-victims-mother-attacked-northern-india-093909312.html
on May 30,2014 | 12:56PM
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