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16 Mar, 2013 14:14

Swiss tourist brutally gang-raped in front of husband in central India

Swiss tourist brutally gang-raped in front of husband in central India

A Swiss tourist’s Indian vacation took a horrific turn Friday night after she was brutally gang-raped by a group of eight people in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Six men have been arrested, according to a local police official.

All six men have confessed to committing the crime, the official told AP. Local police previously detained and questioned around 20 people.

The gruesome incident occurred around 9:00pm local time on Friday, in a desolate jungle area of the Datia district. The victim’s husband told police that four people raped the woman in front of him, while the rest of the men restrained the couple.  

According to police official S.M. Afzal Datia, the suspects allegedly attacked the 39-year-old woman with canes and other weapons. They assaulted the victim’s husband and stole the couple’s cash, laptop, camera, flashlights, and mobile phones.

The woman was rushed to Gwalior district hospital, where doctors confirmed the rape and assault. She has since been discharged.

Police Director-General Nandan Kumar Dubey said the suspects have been identified. The matter has also been reported to the minister of external affairs and the embassy, he said.

But National Commission for Women (NCW) chair Mamata Sharma said the local government should be doing far more in the wake of the crime. "The government has remained stoic and are not taking appropriate steps in the right direction," she said in a statement.  

The Swiss woman and her husband were touring the area by bicycle and camping overnight in the forest. They had been vacationing in India for the past three months.

Meanwhile, Switzerland has contacted local authorities and called for a "swift" investigation into the incident, saying the health and treatment of the victim was its top priority.

"The Embassy is most distressed with the gang-rape of a Swiss national in Madhya Pradesh. The Ambassador has been able to speak to the victim and her partner and has assured them of all possible support," Swiss Ambassador Linus von Castelmur said in a Saturday statement.

This was the second recent case of a foreign tourist being raped in Madhya Pradesh. In February, a 23-year-old South Korean student reported that she was drugged and raped by the son of a local hotel owner.

The attack comes just three months after a 23-year-old student was gang-raped and beaten in a moving bus and thrown onto the street. She later died in a Singapore hospital. The case sparked outrage throughout the country, and cast a spotlight on the safety of women in India. 

Indian students of various organisations hold placards as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Hyderabad on January 3, 2013.(AFP Photo / Noah Seelam)

People stand next to a bus that was damaged by the demonstrators during a protest in New Delhi March 1, 2013.(Reuters / Stringer)

Earlier this month, 500 people gathered to protest the January rape of a 7-year-old girl in the Indian state of Goa. Several policemen and locals were injured, as officers used batons against stone-throwing demonstrators.

The crimes have prompted lawmakers to push through measures aimed at providing protection for women throughout the country.

On Saturday, India’s United Progressive Alliance government announced that such a law would be passed soon: "To stop crime against women, a law will soon be passed," UPA chair Sonia Gandhi said in a statement.

Gandhi's statement came two days after the Union Cabinet cleared a bill mandating stringent punishment for rape and other crimes. The bill sets a minimum jail term of 20 years for rape.

Government statistics indicate that a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India, although the country’s conviction rate for rape crimes is one of the lowest in the world.

Indian students of various organisations hold placards as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Hyderabad on January 3, 2013.(AFP Photo / Noah Seelam)