Female Street Performers Gang-Raped at Gunpoint

Police in India are still investigating
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2018 5:20 PM CDT
In this Aug 23, 2013 file photo, Indian activists hold placards demanding rapists be hanged as they protest against the gang rape of a 22-year-old woman photojournalist in Mumbai India.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)

(Newser) – Five female activists were performing a street play in remote India this week when men kidnapped them at gunpoint and gang-raped them in a forest, CBS News reports. Police say the activists were working with an NGO backed by local Christian missionaries—and were accompanied by two nuns and four men—when the assault occurred in the Khunti district of Jharkhand state. The assailants recorded video of the rapes on the activists' cellphones in an apparent attempt to blackmail them into staying away from police, Al Jazeera reports. "We discovered the video during examination of the victims' cellphones," a police official tells the Hindustan Times. The survivors, described as "four girls and a married woman," are under police protection and awaiting medical-test results.

Now 10 people including a Christian priest have been detained and released on bond, and sketches of the accused are circulating with a $3,500 reward offer. The priest, Alfanso Aien, is accused of intervening to rescue only the nuns and then failing to report the crime. Officials say the rapists could be members of a group devoted to keeping "outsiders" from Jharkhand’s hinterland, the BBC reports. Supported by many tribal villages, the so-called Pathalgarhi movement rejects state governments and posts signs warning outsiders to stay away. Violence against women is a chronic problem in India, where roughly 40,000 rape cases were alleged in 2016 and two teenage girls were raped and set on fire in Jharkhand last month. (Read more rape stories.)

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