- Special Pages
A security official looks at the site where a Swiss woman was raped the night before, near Gwalior, yesterday.
BHOPAL: A Swiss female tourist was gang-raped in central India in front of her husband, police said yesterday, renewing the focus on the issue of sexual violence against women in the country.
The woman was on a cycling trip with her husband in Madhya Pradesh state when seven to eight men attacked the couple late on Friday while they were camping, sexually assaulting the woman and robbing the pair, police said.
The attackers “tied up the man and raped the woman in his presence”, local police official S M Afzal said, adding that they stole Rs10,000 ($185) and a mobile phone from the woman.
“We are deeply shocked by this tragic incident suffered by a Swiss citizen and her partner in India,” the Swiss foreign ministry in Bern said in a statement. The Swiss ministry said its diplomats in India were in contact with local authorities and that it hoped the attackers would be “swiftly identified and would appear before a court to answer for their actions”.
The couple were on their way to the tourist destination of Agra when they stopped to camp for the night. “The victims, who belong to Switzerland, put up a tent to stay overnight” in a forested area near a village when the attack occurred, Afzal said.
Media reports said the men were wielding sticks when they attacked the couple around 50km from Orchha, a popular foreign tourist destination in Madhya Pradesh. After the attack, the rape victim, aged about 40, was admitted to hospital in Gwalior city, 342km from Bhopal, police official M S Dhodee said. The woman was released yesterday from hospital, authorities said.
Swiss Ambassador Linus von Castelmur has spoken to the victim and assured her “of all possible help”, the Press Trust of India reported. Some 20 people have been detained “on the basis of suspicion and are being questioned in connection with the incident”, senior local police officer D K Arya said. Reacting to the attack, the state’s opposition leader Ajay Singh said it “had brought a bad name to Madhya Pradesh at the international level”.
In 2003, a 36-year-old female Swiss diplomat was abducted in the car park of a popular New Delhi auditorium, driven away by two men and raped. She was freed later nearby. No one has been convicted for that attack.
Concern remains high in the country over the safety and status of women and girls. The government has been under heavy pressure to step up legal protection for women following the December attack on the student who died from internal injuries after being savagely assaulted by six men.
Last Monday, Ram Singh, one of six accused on trial over the December assault was found hanged in his high-security jail cell in New Delhi. 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.