The body of a teenage girl has been found near a set of railroad tracks in West Bengal, India. Police said the girl’s body was found semi-dressed and they suspect she was raped and murdered.
The girl’s family told BBC News she was likely “humiliated” for testifying in court that her father was being harassed by village elders.
The unnamed teenager’s body was found the day after an unofficial village court summoned her and her father to settle a dispute over a tractor.
Unofficial courts in Indian villages are often used to settle such disputes. They often sanction the punishment of residents who are deemed to have violated local codes.
The girl’s family said village elders “threatened the girl with dire consequences” after protesting her father’s treatment at the hands of the court.
Villagers said the girl “disappeared” from the court while the proceedings were still in progress. Her body was found the next morning.
Her family reportedly believes she was made to spit on the ground and lick it up before she was killed. The act is considered a grave form of humiliation by local customs.
Police said her family has lodged complaints against 13 village elders but no arrests have been made yet.
The incident underscores India’s ongoing problem with sexual violence that was brought to light by the high-profile gang-rape and murder of a woman on a New Delhi bus in 2012.
The country’s government passed stricter sexual-violence laws last year but the laws seem to have done little to curb violence and discrimination against women.
Last week the Daily Mail reported that five suspects, held in connection with the suspected rape and murder of two young girls in northern India, were released despite reported admissions of guilt from three suspects.
The bodies of the two victims were found in May, hanged from a tree, outside their village in Uttar Pradesh State.
The murders sparked angry protests from villagers, yet no one has been brought to justice, although local police say charges could still be brought against the suspects.
Comments made at the time of the girls’ murder by the head of the state’s governing party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, highlighted the deeply entrenched cultural discrimination against females. At a political rally Yadav made it clear that he was opposed to laws that would enforce stricter penalties — including the death penalty — on those convicted of gang-rape.
“Boys will be boys,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “They make mistakes.”