34 Indian schoolgirls beaten with sticks after protesting sexual harassment

34 Indian schoolgirls beaten with sticks after protesting sexual harassment
File photo showing activists holding a protest against the abduction and gang-rape of five charity workers in Chochang village of the Khunti district, in Ranchi, India.
PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - Thirty-four Indian schoolgirls aged between 12 and 16 were taken to hospital after being beaten with sticks by a group of boys, along with the boys' mothers and neighbours, who had harassed them earlier in the day, authorities said.

The assault happened on Saturday outside a government-run boarding school in the eastern state of Bihar, police told Reuters, following a series of sexual assaults across the country that has sparked outrage.

India is the world's most dangerous country for women due to the high risk of sexual violence and being forced into slave labour, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of about 550 experts on women's issues released in June.

Earlier this year in Bihar, more than 30 girls were sexually assaulted and tortured at a shelter in Bihar.

Saturday's attack only came to light on Monday because of the delay in filing the case. Ten people, including four women, were arrested, Mrityunjay Kumar Choudhary, Supaul's police chief, told Reuters.

The girls suffered minor injuries and were released from hospital over the weekend.

The boys, aged between 12 and 16, entered a field near the school in the village of Darpakha, about 300 km from the state capital, Patna, where the girls were playing on Saturday and shouted obscene comments, Choudhary said.

The boys left after the girls protested, only to return later with a group of around 20 people armed with sticks.

"The boys brought their mothers and others from the neighborhood," Baidyanath Yadav, Supaul's district chief, told Reuters. The older women also attacked the girls, he said.

The girls returned to school, where authorities have beefed up security, on Monday, Yadav said.

Opposition leader and former Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav took to Twitter to target Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, accusing him of maintaining a "cunning silence" on the violence.

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