Swiss Tourist Gang Raped in India


Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 01:02 a.m. DST, 21 March 2013

BicyclingAroundTheWorld.comMADHYA PRADESH, India - Indian police officials have arrested several men suspected of raping a Swiss woman in the Madhya Pradesh state. The exact number of men has been disputed across several news sources, the numbers ranging between three and seven suspects.

A Swiss couple was cycling along central Indian tourist trail on Friday to the city of Agra. According to the Washington Post, the couple pitched a tent in the jungle off the highway and was camping overnight when a group of men attacked them. The men raped the wife, beat the husband, and stole a cell phone and some cash from the couple.

Aljazeera says the local police official MS Dhodee claimed that six men have reportedly confessed to the crime. CNN reports that the confessions are not admissible in court and can be retracted because they were in police custody.

Dilip Arya, deputy inspector of general police, told Reuters that the group of men would go before a magistrate on Monday.

The Swiss foreign ministry in Bern stated that they “are deeply shocked by this tragic incident suffered by a Swiss citizen and her partner in India.”

Officials in India have reacted otherwise. The Washington Post reports that the state’s home minister Uma Shankar Gupta shifted the blame to the foreign tourists for not following tourist rules.

Gupta said, “What happened is unfortunate for our nation. When foreign tourists come, they should inform the (superintendent of police) about their plans. This is the system but it is not being followed.”

The police in India further said that the Swiss couple was in an unsafe area when the attack occurred. R.K. Gurgar, the police station chief in Datia, commented that the couple were in an area where no one could hear them, and that they should have stayed at a nearby village or taken shelter at a school.

The Washington Post reports that Madhya Pradesh has the highest incidence of rapes in the country with over nine reported daily.

There have been calls by human rights groups and the public for stricter laws regarding sexual assault and changes in cultural attitudes toward women. These events serve as a painful reminder of another sexual battery case, the horrific 2012 Delhi gang rape case.

In December, a 23-year old woman was beaten and gang raped on a bus while she was traveling with a male companion. The young woman later died of her severe wounds in a hospital in Singapore. Her death caused widespread national and international coverage and was condemned by several women’s’ groups. Public protests were held against the Government of India and Delhi for not providing women adequate security.

Though no country or people can be held responsible for the reprehensible acts of a few, the increased number of violent gang rapes which have recently plagued India speaks to a larger problem which has yet to be addressed. At its core is a cultural disposition in which a woman's right to self-determination, safety, and justice are seemingly of secondary concern to those of men.

As if to highlight this, The Washington Post reported that in New Delhi alone, there have been over 150 reported cases of rape in the first 45 days of 2013.

CNN reports that India’s home affairs minister appointed a panel as a result of the Swiss couple case. The panel criticized Indian attitudes toward sexual assault and called for policy changes, including the punishment of 20-years in jail if convicted of gang rape. Further, the panel suggested that it should be a crime if police officers fail to investigate sexual assault, as well as making it illegal to consider the victim’s character or previous sexual experience of the victim at the trial.

UPDATED: Thursday, 21 March 2013

Associated Press journalist, Ravi Nessman, reported 4 hours ago that "India's Parliament passed a sweeping new law Thursday to protect women against sexual violence in response to a fatal December gang rape and beating of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi.

The new law, which still requires the president's signature before it becomes official, makes stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime. It also provides for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim's death. The law also makes it a crime for police officers to refuse to open cases when they receive complaints of sexual attacks." Read Associated Press Article Here

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