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Indian teen allegedly raped by 33 men over 8 months

A 15-year-old girl was raped by 33 men several times over the past eight months, Indian police said after arresting 28 of the accused.

The victim was first raped by in January in Dombivli, a small city 25 miles northeast of Mumbai, which is India's richest city and its financial hub. The accused allegedly filmed the rape and then used the video to blackmail the victim for subsequent sexual assaults, said police.

"It all started when a friend of the girl raped her in January and made a video of the incident. He started blackmailing her on the basis of that video. Later on, his friends and acquaintances gang-raped her at least on four to five occasions at different places," Dattatray Karale, an additional commissioner with the Maharashtra Police, told reporters Thursday.

India has reported several cases where criminals use videos of rapes to blackmail the victims, threatening to leak the video to social media or send it to her family.

In this case, the teenaged victim was allegedly raped at several places in Maharashtra state, where Dombivali and Mumbai are located, including Badlapur, Rabale and Murbad. She had managed to hide the alleged serial abuse from her family until Wednesday. Her family approached police when they found out, but it's not clear how they learned of the alleged abuse.

The 28 people arrested include two minors, who will be treated as juveniles and possibly face a "correction" time in a home. The rest of the 26 accused have been charged under various sections of rape in the Indian Penal Code, and also under a stricter law: the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. If convictedthe suspects face possible sentences of 20 years to life imprisonment.

Twenty-six suspects were arrested Thursday and two more were arrested Friday. The police are looking for five others suspected of being involved. A special investigation team headed by a senior woman officer is investigating the case.

India has a severe problem with sexual violence against women. Despite recently tightened rape laws, the country reports more than 32,000 rapes in a year, government data showed in 2019 — an average of nearly four rapes every hour in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people. Those numbers reflect only reported cases and do not include cases of sexual violence other than rape.

India's women revolt against a culture of rape 02:43

The latest case in the Mumbai area is the latest in a string of other recently reported rapes. Earlier this month, a 34-year-old woman in Mumbai died after being raped and brutally tortured with an iron rod — reminiscent of the 2012 rape and murder in Delhi of a young paramedical student, which sparked massive protests and made international headlines.

Since those country-wide protests, activists have held occasional protests after cases come to light and people also express outrage and helplessness on social media. But the issue of women's safety has largely failed to gain traction among governments and political parties, who, over decades, have fought elections on the issues of jobs, infrastructure development, facilities, caste and religion alone. 

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