KOLKATA (AFP) - A woman was gang-raped by some 12 men on the orders of a village council in eastern India as punishment for apparently having an affair, a police officer said on Thursday.
The council ordered the horrific penalty to be carried out in a village in West Bengal state on Tuesday night after the 20-year-old woman was discovered with a man from another community, a senior officer said.
Police have arrested 12 people over the attack which was meted out after the woman's parents said they could not pay the fine of 25,000 rupees (S$517) imposed by the council for having the affair.
"The girl was gang-raped for having an affair with a youth of another community and failing to pay the fine which was imposed by the village council," district police superintendent C. Sudhakar told AFP.
"We have so far arrested 12 people in connection with the incident."
The attack again casts India's record on sexual violence back into the spotlight after national outrage over the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012.
The incident also echoes an attack on a woman in neighbouring Pakistan in 2002 on orders of a village council to avenge her 12-year-old brother's alleged impropriety with a woman from a rival clan.
Six men were sentenced to death for the rape of the illiterate Pakistani woman Mukhtar Maiher in a landmark ruling there. But five were later acquitted and the main culprit had his sentence reduced to life imprisonment.
The incident in India took place in Subalpur village, about 240km west of state capital Kolkata, after the couple were discovered on Monday.
"The head of the village council held an urgent meeting in the village square on Tuesday when the girl and her lover were called," Sudhakar said.
"The girl and her lover were tied to two separate trees and fined 25,000 rupees each as a fine for having an affair," he said.
"As the parents of the girl, who were also present at the meeting, expressed their inability to pay the fine, the head of the village council ordered that she should be raped by the villagers as punishment," he said.
The man apparently involved with the girl was freed after he agreed to pay the fine within a week, he said.
The woman was recovering from the attack in a hospital.
Last month, India marked the first anniversary of the death of the 23-year-old student who was gang-raped in New Delhi on a moving bus, in an attack that sent shockwaves across the nation.
Despite tougher laws and efforts to change attitudes to women in India's deeply patriarchal society, the number of reported sex crimes continues to rise.
Earlier this month, a Danish woman was allegedly gang-raped and robbed in the capital after she became lost on her way back to her hotel.