21:20, July 17 417 0 theguardian.com

2018-07-17 21:20:07
India: 17 men charged with raping 12-year-old girl over months

Seventeen men have appeared in court in the Indian city of Chennai charged with repeatedly raping a 12-year girl over the course of seven months.

The men included security guards, lift operators and plumbers working at the apartment block where the girl lived, police said.

The men ranging from age 23 to 66 sedated the girl with drugs and then took her to vacant apartments in the block to assault her, police said. Indian media also reported the accused men took the girl to a basement, terrace, gym and public restrooms.

The Times of India reported that a 66-year-old elevator operator in the largely unoccupied apartment complex first sexually assaulted her. It was alleged he then brought other men from outside the complex to who filmed the assaults.

Local media reports said the men, aged 23 to 66, threatened the girl with knives and told her they would release videos of the assault if she told anyone.

On Saturday the girl told her sister, who was visiting from Delhi, prompting the family to file a complaint, the Times of India said.

Police arrested the men on Monday on charges of rape, attempted murder and criminal intimidation.

Television footage showed chaotic scenes in the court building as lawyers allegedly attacked the suspects on the staircase of the city’s high court as they were brought in.

The Hindustan times reported that the Madras high court advocates association announced no lawyer would appear for the suspects.

“We have requested the legal fraternity to stay away from appearing for the accused and we will also appeal against the state legal aid services if they move the mandatory bail petition for the accused,” MHAA president, G Mohana Krishnan, told the paper.

On average more than a hundred cases of women being raped were reported every day in India in 2016, according to the most recent figures made available by the national crime records bureau. Around six of those were girls below the age of 12.

In January an eight-year-old girl was kidnapped, drugged and raped for five days in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir before being killed with a rock. This led to the introduction of the death penalty for the rape of girls under the age of 12.

In June a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation found that India was the least safe country in the world to be a woman, followed by Afghanistan and Syria.