India woman stripped, paraded on donkey as punishment after being accused of murder

JAIPUR, India (AFP) - A woman was partially stripped naked and paraded on a donkey through her village in northern India after being accused of killing her nephew, police said.

Members of the village also blackened her face with coal dust and cut her hair following orders from a local council of elders in Rajasthan.

Thirty-nine people, mostly members of the village in Rajsamand district, have been arrested over the incident that took place on Saturday night, additional superintendent of police Sudhir Joshi said on Monday.

The woman was accused by the village council of killing her nephew who had died some time earlier, he said.

"The woman aged around 40 years was in her house when some villagers stormed into the house and pulled her out on Saturday evening," Joshi told AFP.

"They cut her hair, blackened her face and stripped her half naked. Then they mounted her on a donkey and paraded her in the village for ten minutes," he said.

"It was after a meeting of the panchayat (village elders). The cruel punishment was meted out to the woman just on a suspicion," he said.

The woman was now being cared for by family members, the officer added.

Councils made up of village elders, usually known as "khap panchayats", are common in rural parts of India, especially in the north, where they are often accused of dispensing "Taleban-style justice".

Their diktats are often unconstitutional and illegal, but they continue to hold sway with rules seen as regressive by women's rights activists.

In September this year, 13 men were jailed in West Bengal state for gang-raping a woman who was accused by the local council of "dishonouring" her village.

The council ordered the attack against the 20-year-old woman for the perceived offence of having a relationship with a man from a different community.