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Attack On Mother In India Underscores U.N. Call For Action

As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took notice of the global assault against women and girls, another brutal attack in India has highlighted once more the prevalence of gender-based crime in the world's largest democracy.

Police say a mother of five was shot dead by militants in a remote village in the northeast of the country after she resisted attempts to molest her.

The 35-year-old woman was allegedly pulled from her home as her husband and five children looked on. Locked inside the house by the assailants, the family reportedly saw the attackers first sexually molest Josbina Sangma then shoot her in the head with an automatic assault rifle at close range.

A separatist outfit known as the Garo National Liberation Army is being blamed for what police have termed "murder after sexual assault." The group was declared a terrorist organization in 2012 and is alleged to have been involved in several cases of murder, kidnapping and extortion.

The episode has shaken the state of Meghalaya, which borders Bangladesh and where an armed militancy in the Garo Hills spanning three districts has been agitating for a separate territory. According to data from the Meghalaya Police, the state has seen a steady rise in crimes against women since 2001.

The brutal killing Tuesday evening comes fast on the heels of the double rape and murder of two young girls who were found hanged from a tree in the state of Uttar Pradesh last week. The crime has drawn outrage from across the country and the globe.

In a statement, the United States said Monday, "Like so many in India, we are horrified to learn of these violent sexual assaults and murder. "

The U.N. secretary-general on Wednesday also decried the global phenomenon of sexual crime.

"In just the last two weeks, we have seen despicable attacks against women and girls from around the world, from Nigeria to Pakistan and from California to India." Ban stressed that "violence against women degrades us all." He said it is "a peace and security issue. It's a human rights issue. And it's a development issue."

"I was especially appalled by the brutal rape and gruesome murder of two teenaged women in India who had ventured out because they did not have access to a toilet," Ban said.

India's 2011 census shows that more than half of the country's 1.2 billion people have no private toilet or latrine, something taken for granted in developed countries. An estimated 65 percent of rural India is forced to defecate in the open, a practice that imperils women's safety and dignity.

Newly installed Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged during the election campaign "toilets before temples," a promise that will be put to the test.

Ban demanded action and appealed to society to reject the destructive attitude of "boys will be boys."

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Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.
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