The gang rape of a Swiss tourist while camping with her husband in India puts the international spotlight (again) on sexual violence against women in the South Asia nation.
The attack occurred Friday evening after the Swiss couple had stopped to camp in a forest. They were bicycling in the state of Madhya Pradesh on their way to see the Taj Mahal, in Agra. According to the Hindustan Times, the couple were returning from visiting the Ram Raja Temple, in Orchha.
A group of 7 or 8 men, according to various reports, attacked the couple. According to one report, the husband was held at gunpoint. Another report says the men were carrying sticks. Seven men attacked the couple in their tent and four of them raped the woman, Dilip Arya, deputy inspector general of police, told Reuters. They also stole their valuables."
While 20 men have reportedly been detained for questioning, no one has been arrested.
The woman was treated and released from the Kamalaraje hospital in Gwalior and her medical tests have confirmed rape, police sources told The Hindustan Times.
One woman is raped every 20 minutes in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. But police estimate only four out of 10 rapes are reported, largely due to victims' fear of being shamed by their families and communities.
The attack on the Swiss tourists comes just three months after major protests in India following the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year old college student on a bus in New Delhi.
As The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time, the outrage expressed by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators over that "heinous attack has given women at least a measure of hope that the country of 1.2 billion people will see meaningful improvement in how women are treated, though most realize any change is likely to come slowly.
"These protests have at least given women the confidence to talk about sexual violence," says Singh, the kindergarten teacher in Bangalore. "For too long, women have been made to feel guilty for these things."
But as another Monitor article noted "the challenges faced by Indian women reflect broader contradictions: Two decades of economic growth and globalization have brought improved opportunities but also greater inequality. That paradox was captured in a July survey that ranked India as the worst place to be a woman among the Group of 20 countries that make up the world's biggest economies, based on parameters like health services, threat of violence, and property rights."
As a result of the attention focus on women's security, AFP reports that "the national Congress-led government has been under heavy pressure to step up legal protection for India's women following the December attack on the student who died from internal injuries after being savagely assaulted by six men.
Under a new bill approved by India's cabinet earlier in the week, rapists face a minimum 20-year jail term and the death penalty if the victim dies from her injuries or is left in a persistent vegetative state."
Meanwhile, the driver of the bus in which a young Indian woman was gang-raped and fatally injured in December hanged himself in his jail cell on Monday, prison authorities said, but his family and lawyer said they suspected "foul play." Police have described Ram Singh as the ringleader of five men and a juvenile on trial.