Editor’s note: This story contains language and details of sexual violence.
Police say a teenager was murdered by her parents in India for eloping, the Guardian reports.
The 16-year-old’s body was located Sunday after what is believed to have been an “honor killing,” according to authorities. Police reported she was beheaded, and doused in acid, in the city of Gaya within Bihar, one of India’s poorest states.
While child marriage is prevalent in Bihar, marrying without the approval of family, religion, or consent is frowned upon and eloping is severely punished in the eastern state, according to local police.
“The girl eloped with someone on Dec. 28 from her home in Patwa Panchayat but returned after three days,” Gaya’s police chief, Rajiv Kumar Mishra, told the Guardian.
“This angered the parents, who plotted the cold-blooded murder with the help of a butcher friend.”
Honor killings are committed to restore the honor of oneself, family, or community and claims the lives of over 5,000 women a year, according to advocacy groups. There have been more than 300 cases in India alone between 2015 and 2018.
Outraged supporters shared photos of the girl’s remains on social media, referring to her as Anjana. Protests and vigils were also held for the victim within the city.
#JusticeForAnjana#wewantJustice— khowalal (@khowalal6) January 9, 2019
16 yrs girl raped. No media is covering this news. Because the victim is from poor family in a small village (bihar) Please help us in getting justice @akshaykumar@aajtak@unwomenindia@NewsNationTV@narendramodi@email@example.com/dwyE5V7Qgy
The girl’s family claims police didn’t act fast enough when they reported her alleged rape and murder on Dec. 28 after she left the house to go to the market. On Thursday, authorities said they believed her family was behind the deadly attack.
In India, 94.6% of rape perpetrators were found to be the survivor’s relatives.
Mishra said an autopsy revealed the girl hadn’t been raped and her sister reported to police she had last been seen with a butcher on Dec. 31. He claimed her parents didn’t respond once the police reported that they had found her body.
There is public speculation that her death was not an honor killing, as police have claimed.
“Why would a family, which is so poor that it was not able to even afford the funeral of the girl ... indulge in an act like honor killing?” Sarvesh Kumar, an activist from Gaya, told First Post.
Kumar said the state in which the girls’ body was found suggests rape and that the police are covering up what really happened under the guise of an honor killing because they were slow to take action.
Kathir, founder of the charity Evidence, told Reuters honor killings often go unreported in India.
“These cases are usually not even registered by the police as caste-based crimes, and very few come to court.”
Honor killings are only one of the many forms of rampant sexual violence in Bihar, and across India. Due to gender-based violence enforced by patriarchal tradition, the country was deemed the most dangerous country for women in a 2018 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll.
If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org. You can find international resources here.