A 13-year-old girl who reported being gang-raped by four men in India was then raped again by a police officer whose help she sought, authorities said.
Police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh confirmed Wednesday they have arrested the unnamed officer and five other suspects in connection with the alleged rapes, which sparked outrage across the country.
“Strict action will be taken against those found guilty,” Prashant Kumar, a senior police officer, said Thursday. “The rape survivor has been admitted to the district hospital for treatment.”
Over the past decade, India has grappled with sexual and physical violence targeting young women and girls, especially those belonging to the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste system.
The alleged rape incidents took place in April but only came to light this week when the victim, who comes from the Dalit community, previously known as the “Untouchables,” filed a complaint with the state police.
The 13-year-old claimed she had been gang-raped by four boys who took her to the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh on April 22 and held her captive for four days.
When she was finally freed, she headed with her aunt to the rural police station in Lalitpur, where she was allegedly raped again by the officer to whom she reported the gang rape.
Following his arrest, the officer, who also belongs to the Dalit caste, proclaimed his innocence and called on the authorities to launch an independent investigation, CNN reported.
The 29 other officers who were present at the police station at the time of the alleged rape have been suspended.
The four men in the initial gang rape incident have been arrested, along with a woman whose involvement in the case is unclear at this time. They have not yet been formally charged.
The incident sparked widespread condemnation in India, prompting local politicians and activists to demand urgent steps to protect women.
“If police stations are not safe for women, then where will they go with their complaints?” tweeted Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a senior leader of the main opposition Congress party.
Nearly 32,000 rapes or attempted rapes were reported in India in 2020, the government’s most recent crime data shows, but that number could be even higher because many sexual assaults often go unreported.
India adopted the death penalty in 2018 as a punishment for the rape of girls younger than 12, in response to public pressure after a string of assaults on children.
That followed the horrific gang rape and subsequent death of a young woman in a moving bus in the capital Delhi in December 2012 that caused national uproar and brought new laws, though the number of assaults on women stayed high.
In 2020, a 19-year-old woman died after claiming she had been gang-raped and assaulted in Uttar Pradesh. Local police and officials cremated the victim’s body under the cover of darkness without her family’s knowledge and denied she was raped.
With Post Wires