A second teenage girl is reported to have been raped and set on fire in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, just days after a 16-year-old was similarly attacked in the same state.
It is the latest in a series of brutal crimes against women across India in recent months that have sparked outrage and large protests nationwide.
In response to earlier incidents, thousands of people took to the streets across the country in late April to protest against sexual violence, some of the largest demonstrations since the highly publicized rape and murder of a female collage student in Delhi in 2012.
The latest victim, a 17-year-old girl, was in the hospital Monday afternoon after suffering burns to 70% of her body, according to Shailendra Prasad Barnwal, superintendent of police in Jharkhand’s Pakur district.
The news came on the same day the country’s Supreme Court moved a trial over the kidnapping, gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in India’s north.
A suspect (C) being held by Indian police in the case of a 17-year-old girl who was raped and set on fire.
The 17-year-old in the latest attack was in the house of a relative when the accused, whom she knew previously, entered and allegedly sexually assaulted her before setting her on fire and fleeing the scene.
Neighbors heard the girl crying for help and rescued her, taking her to the hospital, Barnwal said.
“She is being treated and her condition is normal as of now. Every organ is functioning normally. She is talking and responding to our questions,” he said.
A local man was arrested in connection with the attack, according to police. Nobody has been charged as yet, however, and investigations are continuing.
Woman attacked for reporting rape
The first reported attack in Jharkhand took place on Friday, when a 16-year-old girl died after she was burned to death for going to authorities to report being gang-raped, investigators said.
Authorities believe the teenager was kidnapped from her rural home Thursday night, while her family was at a wedding, and raped in a nearby forest.
The village council ordered the accused men to do 100 situps and imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees ($750). Offended by the penalty imposed on them, the men burned the victim’s house down with her inside, authorities said.
Police in Jharkhand quickly detained 15 people in relation to the crime, including the village chief. While the second attack also occurred in Jharkhand, Barnwal said there is no connection between the two brutal crimes, which took place on opposite sides of the state.
Around 100 sexual assaults are reported to police in India every day, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. There were nearly 39,000 alleged attacks in 2016, an increase of 12% on the previous year.
Last month, India’s Cabinet passed an executive order to make the rape of a girl younger than 12 punishable by death The change in the law will become permanent once it gains approval by India’s Parliament, which is currently in recess.
Rape trial moved over concerns
The two reported cases in Jharkhand came as it was announced that the trial in the separate rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir will now be held in the neighboring state of Punjab, said Sunil Fernandes, a lawyer for the girl’s father.
The killing in January contributed to a growing public outrage in India over the treatment of women and children, in particular because of the brutal events surrounding the young girl’s death.
A member of a Muslim nomadic community, she was abducted while grazing her horses and held captive for five days in a Hindu temple, where she was repeatedly sexually assaulted before being murdered.
The crime reignited India’s deep-seated divisions over religion. Three months after her death, a group of local politicians, Hindu nationalists and legal professionals launched a campaign in support of the eight accused, who are all Hindu.
The coalition in favor of the accused said local police, some of whom are Muslim, could not be impartial.
Concerned over the impartiality and volatility of their home state, the girl’s family asked India’s Supreme Court to move the location of the trial, a petition that has been granted, according to the family’s lawyer.
“It’s a victory for us. That’s what we have prayed for and the prayer has been granted,” said Fernandes.