Thirty-six Indian school girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were hospitalized because they stood up against sexual harassment Saturday night.
A large group of teenage boys and their parents attacked the young girls at their boarding school Triveniganj, in the northeastern state of Bihar, the Guardian reports. It all started when the girls were playing in a sports area and the teenage boys taunted them with sexually inappropriate comments. Six boys and one woman were arrested.
“They had been always teasing us and scribbling dirty words on the walls of our school,” Guida, one of the targeted students, told the Guardian about the boys’ behavior leading up to the incident.
Some of the girls fought back verbally and physically, and they were able to ward off the harassers temporarily. The situation escalated when the boys and their parents came back 20 minutes later and assaulted the girls with bamboo sticks and iron rods, police reported.
According to Guida, the boys and parents dragged them by their ponytails, and kicked and punched them. She said the attackers were upset “because we had protested [against] their sexual advances.”
The majority of the young women who suffered injuries were released from the hospital and returned to school, but a local official said they’re traumatized and don’t feel safe. The school administration is trying to comfort the students by screening entertaining movies on campus and plans to tighten security by enlisting the help of police officers and building a higher fence to keep trespassers out.
Another 2018 study found 1 in 3 girls in India not only fears being inappropriately touched or harassed in public, but they expect it.
While India tightened its anti-rape laws in 2013 after a young woman was gang-raped, sexual assault is a still a major issue throughout the country, especially in rural areas.