Another young woman has been found dead; hung from a tree in a village in northern India – the fourth to undergo such horrific treatment in the past three weeks.
Her body was found in the Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh state, just three hours outside Delhi. Her family believes that the girl, thought to be between 16 and 19-years-old, was raped, though this is yet to be confirmed.
According to the Times of India, the young woman went missing from her home in Rajpura village on Wednesday evening while her family attended a wedding.
Her parents contend that their attempts to report her disappearance to the police that night were refused; they were told instead to come back on Thursday morning, and she was later found dead.
The details of the case are not yet known, and Indian news service IANS quotes a local official as saying, "We are trying to probe all angles, including enmity with someone, but it is too early to say anything".
This shocking crime is the latest in a string of attacks against women in Uttar Pradesh. Two young Dalit teenagers, at least one of whom was raped, were hung from a mango tree near their home in Katra Shahadatgani, Budaun on 27 May, and a 44-year-old woman was also found murdered and hung in the Bahraich area on Wednesday – a post mortem was unable to discern if she too had been the victim of sexual violence.
Kumar Swarmy, National Co-ordinator of the All Indian Christian Council, condemned the attacks in an interview with Christian Today, citing human rights violations across India as a "major concern", and noting that the "gruesome gang rape" of the two young girls in particular "shocked the country and the global community".
Violence against women is endemic in India; the Asian Centre for Human Rights reports that there are an average of over 4,800 child rape cases in India each year, with victims often being girls from lower-caste communities.
Hundreds of people have protested outside the office of the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in response to the latest attacks, and India's new Prime Minister, leader of the right-wing BJP Party Narendra Modi, has promised greater punishments for perpetrators.
"The government will have a policy of zero tolerance for violence against women, and will strengthen the criminal justice system for its effective implementation," he told Indian parliament this week.
His words are a clear attempt at damage control after two top government officials sparked widespread criticism for their comments on sexual violence. Babulal Gaur – home minister of Madhya Pradesh state – said of rape: "Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong" while Ramsevak Paikra, home minister of Chhattisgarh state, later remarked:"Such incidents [of rape] do not happen deliberately. These kind of incidents happen accidentally".