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Indian Police Arrest Two in Gang Rape of Danish Tourist

By Kartikay Mehrotra and Andrew MacAskill
January 16, 2014 11:05 AM EST 32 Comments
People shop in a market in Paharganj neighborhood of New Delhi.
Photographer: Kalyan Chakravorty/The India Today Group/Getty Images
People shop in a market in Paharganj neighborhood of New Delhi.

Delhi Police arrested two suspects over the gang rape of a Danish tourist in the center of India’s capital, the latest incident exposing the dangers for women in the world’s second-most populous nation.

The arrests took place late yesterday after police released 15 detained men who had provided information on the suspects, according to Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat. The 51-year-old woman told police she was raped at knife-point by a group of men early in the evening of Jan. 14 in a neighborhood popular with backpackers and budget tourists.

“Additional arrests may follow today,” Bhagat said by phone today. A third suspect was arrested near a railway station in southern Delhi today, Press Trust of India reported, citing unidentified police. It said raids were occurring elsewhere in the country in pursuit of the five other suspects.

The case adds to safety concerns that risk deterring tourists from visiting India, where reported rapes jumped 57 percent over the past decade. The growth rate of visitors to India slowed to 4.1 percent last year following the December 2012 gang rape and murder of a medical student in a moving Delhi bus, the weakest pace in four years and below the average 9.9 percent growth rate since 2004.

“The message being sent to the world is that if you are a woman, you shouldn’t come to India alone,” said Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, a women’s advocacy group in New Delhi. “We’re not doing enough to stop these attacks.”

‘Soul Searching’

Reports of the latest rape rattled tourists yesterday in Delhi, which holds ruins dating back thousands of years and is close to the Taj Mahal.

Sophie Bau, a French tourist who was shopping in Connaught Place, the city’s central commercial complex that was near the rape site, said she was considering packing her bags and flying home after just one day in the city.

“I came to India to escape my life for a little while and do a little soul searching,” said Bau, 36, minutes after receiving frantic messages from her husband and friends in France asking her to come home. “This isn’t what I expected.”

Danish Ambassador Freddy Svane confirmed in an e-mail that one of his country’s citizens was involved in a rape case, without providing further comment. The victim has returned to Denmark, where officials are considering increased warnings about travel to India, the Danish newspaper Politiken reported, citing Ole Mikkelsen of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Victims

A woman was raped in India every 21 minutes on average in 2012, according to the most recent National Crime Records Bureau data, a statistic that police say reflects increased confidence among females to report attacks. The country saw a 35 percent drop in foreign female tourist arrivals in the first three months of last year, according to a study published in April by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India.

In March 2013, a Swiss woman was gang raped while camping with her husband, while a British woman jumped out of the window of her hotel room in Agra -- home to the Taj Mahal -- to flee an assault by staff. In June, a U.S. woman was gang raped while hitchhiking back to her hotel in the Himalayas.

Indian police arrested a migrant worker in Chennai for raping an 18-year-old German woman on Jan. 10 in the sleeping compartment of a train, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported, citing an Indian railway police official. The woman filed the complaint too late to gather medical evidence, the report said.

Delhi ‘Rotting’

The Danish tourist was attacked two days ago on her final night in India after she approached a group of men to ask for directions, according to Pushkar Singh, the manager at the Hotel Amax Inn, where she was staying.

Eight men dragged her to an isolated spot, beat her up and stole her iPod, watch, book, glasses and more than $1,000 in cash, The Indian Express reported, citing the police complaint. They took turns to rape her while holding her captive for five hours, the report said, adding that she was forced to wear the pants of one of her attackers after they stole her jeans.

“What part of Delhi is safe now?” Singh said in an interview. “There’s a problem of education among a portion of the population, and that’s rotting the city.”

The hotel had seen a decline in tourists since the rape and murder of the medical student in Delhi prompted a national outcry and made international headlines, Singh said.

‘Countless Times’

The number of tourists to India nearly doubled over the past decade to 6.8 million last year, according to tourism ministry data. While China had 10.7 million visitors from January to October, about 80 percent were from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, official statistics show.

The budget hotels, bars and restaurants of the Paharganj neighborhood where the attack occurred are popular with backpackers. It is less than a kilometer from Delhi’s main railway station and a short drive from tourist sites such as India Gate, the Mughal-era Red Fort and the presidential palace.

Jill Torrence, 33, took along a male companion on her third tour of India after being groped “countless times” in previous trips, she said yesterday while shopping in the same neighborhood where the rape occurred. It’s become part of the cultural experience to feel men stare at her while using the New Delhi Metro or shopping in central New Delhi, the Scottish tourist said.

“This trip, I’ve only been groped three times,” Torrence said, adding that she dresses conservatively to avoid attention. She said she keeps coming back because India “is more than just repressed sexuality manifesting itself in rape.”

Laws Tightened

In response to public fury about the Delhi gang rape, the government toughened laws on sexual assault. It also criminalized stalking and voyeurism, and allowed for capital punishment if an attack leaves the victim in a vegetative state.

A judge in September sentenced four men to death for the rape and murder of the 23-year-old medical student that triggered global outrage. A juvenile who was under the age of 18 at the time of the attack was given three years in a reform home, while another defendant committed suicide midway through his trial.

New Delhi natives also are concerned that they may be attacked. Prince Jeswal, who earns about 800 rupees ($13) a day ferrying passengers around the city in his three-wheeled rickshaw, said he doesn’t let his children out of the house after 6 p.m. anymore.

“This city has become every man fighting for himself,” the 28-year-old said while stuck in traffic outside the city’s railway station in the neighborhood of the Jan. 14 rape. “After everything that’s happened in the last year, it’s really shocking for this city to have to deal with this again.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Kartikay Mehrotra in New Delhi at kmehrotra2@bloomberg.net; Andrew MacAskill in New Delhi at amacaskill@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

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