Two teenage girls in northern India were gang-raped, strangled to death by their attackers, and then hanged from a mango tree in the fields of their village. Residents of the village in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh found the girls Wednesday, hours after they disappeared Tuesday night from their homes, according to police.
The girls, cousins aged 14 and 16, had headed to the fields to use the bathroom as they did not have one at home, the AP reported.
On Wednesday, police reported they had arrested two police officers and two other males from the village, and were searching for three more suspects, the AP reported.
Angry villagers gathered Wednesday at the scene of the crime and held a silent vigil. The family alleged that the chief of the local police station ignored their reports Tuesday that the girls had gone missing, the AP reported. The victims belong to the Dalit, or the “untouchables,” the lowest community in India’s caste system.
Government reports show that a rape happens every 22 minutes in India; activists contend that the number is far higher, as many women are fearful of reporting incidents because of the country’s entrenched tolerance for gender and sexual violence that stigmatizes victims.
In 2013, several men fatally gang-raped a 23-year-old woman in the back of a bus in New Delhi, sparking international outrage and national reform campaigns.
Over half a billion Indians lack access to toilets. Women often face sexual assault when seeking out clean bathroom space.