Home » Gang rape of a tourist in India highlights the fight to stop sexual violence

Gang rape of a tourist in India highlights the fight to stop sexual violence

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Gang rape of a tourist in India highlights the fight to stop sexual violence

NEW DELHI (AP) — The woman in the Instagram video seemed shocked. Her face was swollen and bruised. Sitting next to her husband, she began the story of her odyssey.

“Something has happened to us that we would not wish on anyone,” he said in Spanish in a video with English subtitles.

“They have assaulted us in the tent, they have beaten us, they have put a knife to our necks (…) seven have raped her,” added her partner, who also showed signs of having been beaten.

In the video, which is no longer on her profile, the Spanish woman said that the attack against her and her husband, also Spanish, both travel bloggers, occurred on Friday night in a forest in the Dumka district, in the Jharkhand state, where they camped on their way to neighboring Nepal.

The couple, who had been documenting their trip for the more than 200,000 followers of their Instagram account, were found by a police patrol who took them to a hospital, where the woman told doctors that she had been raped.

Jharkhand police confirmed the incident and arrested three men over the weekend. On Monday, he said he was looking for four other suspects.

The Associated Press does not typically identify sexual assault victims.

The case sparked outrage across the country about one of India’s most pressing problems: the decades-long fight to curb the rise of sexual violence against women.

Reports of horrific sexual assaults on women have become common in India, where police recorded 31,516 rape cases in 2022, 20% more than in 2021, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

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The true figure is believed to be much higher due to the stigma surrounding sexual violence and victims’ lack of trust in the police. Women’s rights activists say the problem is especially serious in rural areas, where those assaulted are often shamed by the community and families worry about their social standing.

“Often, victims are further victimized with insults, and this makes it very difficult to report the crime to the police. In these cases, women think it is best to keep quiet,” said Mariam Dhawale, activist and general secretary of the Democratic Women’s Association of India.

Rape and sexual violence have been in the spotlight since the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in 2012 on a bus in New Delhi. The attack sparked mass protests and inspired lawmakers to order the creation of fast-track rape courts and tougher penalties.

The legislation was modified in 2013 to include harassment and voyeurism as crimes and lower the age from which a person can be judged as an adult from 18 to 16.

Despite the tightening of laws, human rights activists say the government is not doing enough to protect women and punish attackers.

“Rape cases are often poorly investigated by the police and timely evidence is not collected. These cases drag on without sentences being handed down and the guilty go free,” said Dhawale, who added that convictions remain rare and trials often stall for years in India’s slow judicial system.

In recent years, the conviction rate in rape cases has hovered around 30%, according to various government reports.

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Cases of attacks on foreign tourists in the country have attracted international attention. In 2022, a British tourist was raped in front of her partner in Goa. Earlier this year, an Indian-American woman said she was raped in a hotel in the capital, New Delhi.

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