Indian girl 'humiliated' by village elders found dead

Anti-rape protest in Calcutta on June 7, 2014 Scrutiny of sexual violence in India has grown since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus

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The semi-naked body of a teenage girl who was allegedly humiliated by village elders for protesting against her father's harassment has been found near a railway track in eastern India.

Police suspect the 15-year-old girl in West Bengal was raped and murdered.

Her family said she was made to spit on the ground and lick it up - an act considered a grave form of humiliation.

Unofficial courts in India's villages often sanction punishment of residents deemed to have violated local codes.

Scrutiny of sexual violence in India has grown since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus.

The government tightened laws on sexual violence last year after widespread protests following the attack, but violence and discrimination against women remain deeply entrenched.

The BBC's Amitabha Bhattasali in Calcutta says the girl's body was found near a railway track in the state's Jalpaiguri district on Tuesday - a day after a village court had summoned her and her farmer father to settle a dispute over a tractor.

Her family members told the police that the elders "threatened the girl with dire consequences" when she protested against the "harassment of her father" by the village court.

Villagers said the girl "disappeared" when the court was in progress, and her body was found the next morning.

Police said the girl's family had lodged a complaint against 13 people in the village. No arrests have been made yet.

Local villagers said political rivalry between the village elders and the girl's family could have led to an escalation of the dispute - the elders are reported to be supporters of the ruling Trinamul Congress party, while the girl's family reportedly supports the state's main opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Earlier this year, a woman in West Bengal's Birbhum district was gang-raped, allegedly on orders of village elders who objected to her relationship with a man.

In 2010, village elders in Birbhum ordered at least three tribal women to strip and walk naked in front of large crowds, police said.

The women were being punished for "having close relations" with men from other communities.

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