15yo Indian girl gang-raped, hanged from tree ‘to make it look like suicide’

Indian activists shout slogans as they are confronted by police officials during a protest outside Kerala House in New Delhi on May 4, 2016, following the rape of a student in the southern Indian state of Kerala. © Sajjad Hussain
A teenage girl’s body has been found hanging from a tree in northern India after she was raped, allegedly by three men. The attackers strangled her and hanged the body to make it look like the girl had killed herself, police said.

The incident took place on Friday when the 15-year-old girl went missing, with her body later found hanging from a tree outside the village on Saturday, AFP , citing local police superintendent Salik Ram Verma. 

The 15-year-old allegedly left her home in the Bahraich district of India's Uttar Pradesh state at night when her family was fast asleep and went to meet one of the men. When she came to the meeting place three men were waiting and attacked her.

When the girl resisted their bid, she was raped and later strangled. To make it look like a case of suicide, they hung her body from a tree and left the spot,” superintendent Verma added.

He also said that two of the three suspected attackers have been arrested, while four police officers have been suspended as their initial lack of action over the finding prompted complaints among locals.

“Four constables have been suspended for dereliction of duty and two of the three accused named by the victim's father have been arrested so far,” Verma said. According to police, the victim’s father knew the attackers and told police they tried to abduct his daughter before the incident but failed. The third suspect is still on the run.

The medical report has confirmed rape and strangulation,” Verma told AFP.

The case is the latest in a grim chain of similar events in India, where rights activists have been fighting to curb violence against women for years. The fatal  of a medical student in Delhi in 2012, when the 23-year-old was gang-raped by six men with a metal rod on a bus and died of her injuries, as well as the controversy and media coverage that followed the tragedy, increased scrutiny of such crimes by the authorities.

Policies for police handling of rape cases have been reformed and a tougher punishment for attackers introduced, with convicted rapists now getting 20 years behind bars instead of 10.

Still, sexual offences have not subsided, with up to 40,000 rape cases in India in 2014 alone, which is double the amount of attacks in 2012 (figures for 2015 are not yet available, but are expected to exceed official numbers). Furthermore, the actual number of rape cases is feared to be much higher as not all of them are registered with the authorities. 

In many cases assailants are cleared of charges for alleged lack of evidence. In Uttar Pradesh, northern India, a massive public outcry followed an incident in May 2014, when two teenage girls from a low caste were also found hanging from a tree. Their families claimed they had been gang-raped, but authorities ruled out rape and concluded the girls had taken their own lives.