India rape protest
Women protest against sexual violence in Uttar Pradesh, where two teenage girls were gang-raped and left hanging from a tree Reuters

A ten-year-old girl has reportedly been raped on the orders of a village chief in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, in an incident that again exposes the country's extensive problem of sexual violence.

Police said that the rape followed a confrontation on Monday night when a 25-year-old man barged into the victim's house in an inebriated state and attempted to molest the child's mother. Her husband beat up the attacker and threw him out of the house.

Police said that the following morning, the man went to the chief of the village in Bokaro district and complained of being assaulted. The Times of India reported that an assembly of elders determined the punishment for the husband.

The families of the victim and the attacker were summoned to the meeting, where the village chief allegedly ordered the man to rape the ten-year-old girl to avenge the assault, according to police.

The man is then claimed to have dragged the girl into bushes and raped her, ignoring her mother's cries. An hour later, the mother retrieved her daughter from the bushes, where she lay soaked in blood, the Times of India reported.

The incident in Jharkhand also highlights local political structures such as the Panchayati Raj, which was used to justify the rape of the ten-year-old this week.

The Panchayati system is the oldest form of local government in the Indian subcontinent, in which an assembly of respected elders chosen by locals govern at a village level. It is mainly used in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Sexual violence has plagued the country, garnering international attention over the past two years since a 23-year-old medical student died after being gang-raped on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012.

According to government figures, the number of rape cases in India's capital has almost doubled since the 2012 incident.

Despite government efforts to tighten anti-rape laws, the treatment of women in India seems to show no sign of improving, sparking fears that some men feel a sense of impunity and are emboldened by the media focus on sexual violence.

Last month, two teenage sisters were found hanging from a mango tree by their own scarves in Uttar Pradesh state, after being gang-raped by villagers. The bodies were recently exhumed for further investigation.