Police in Maharashtra's Thane district in India have arrested 28 people suspected of being involved in the repeated gang-raping of a 15-year-old girl over a nine-month period. Authorities initially filed a case against 33 people but only arrested 28, including two minors.
Thane Police said they have sent the two minors to a juvenile correctional facility in Bhiwandi, while the other 24 accused are now in custody. Two of those that were arrested are scheduled to appear in court Friday.
Authorities have set up a Special Investigation Team to look into the case. For now, those being accused have been charged with rape and violating the country's Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
According to investigators, the victim was initially raped by a group of men she said were her "friends," including a man she said was her boyfriend. The men took video footage of the horrific act and used it to blackmail her into being raped again.
"The video was then circulated among other friends and acquaintances of the accused, who too used it to blackmail the teen and rape her on multiple occasions," investigators said.
Police became involved in the case when the young girl told her aunt about how she was being blackmailed. The aunt then filed a complaint with the police against the accused. Police said the victim personally knew almost all of her attackers and she named all 33 of them.
Once the case became public, it immediately caught the attention of politicians, including Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari. The state's government reportedly sent a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday to request a special session on the case.
The case also caught the attention of Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and BJP leader, Devendra Fadnavis, who publicly condemned the rape and called for severe punishment for those who were accused. He also called on the state government to do more in preventing such incidents.
Since the infamous rape of a woman inside a public bus in 2012, the Indian government has implemented tougher laws to address the growing sexual-related crimes in the country. Despite the new laws, rape and sexual assaults in India remains to be a serious issue. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, more than 28,046 cases of rape were reported last year. This equates to about 77 cases of rape per day nationwide.