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India: Attack renews public focus on issue of sexual violence

Swiss foreign ministry expresses deep shock at the ‘tragic incident’

Gulf News

Afpbhopal, India : A Swiss tourist who was gang-raped in central India in front of her husband has left for the capital New Delhi, police said on Sunday, amid growing anger over the country’s treatment of women.

The woman was on a cycling trip with her husband in the impoverished Madhya Pradesh state when a gang of men attacked the couple late on Friday while they were camping, sexually assaulting the woman and robbing the pair.

After the attack, the rape victim, aged about 40, underwent a medical examination at a hospital in the town of Gwalior city, 342 kilometres from the state capital Bhopal, police said.

The couple arrived in Mumbai last month after visiting Iran and began a cycling holiday across India, making their way to Orchha, a popular foreign tourist destination in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, Shadangi said.

They were heading for the tourist destination of Agra, home to the iconic Taj Mahal monument, in northern India when they stopped to camp for the night in a rural, forested area, he added.

The Swiss foreign ministry in Bern released a statement on Saturday expressing deep shock at the “tragic incident”.

The attack has renewed public focus on the issue of sexual violence in India, where the government faces heavy pressure to step up efforts to protect women after the deadly gang-rape in the capital last December.

The rape of the Swiss woman comes closely after a senior Indian executive of an international company was kidnapped on Friday, in Noida, near Delhi.

Armed men kidnapped Rathin Basu, managing director of Alstom T&D India, the electricity transmission business of France’s Alstom, and held him along with his driver in a house in Meerut.

According to Indian newspaper reports, he was rescued from his kidnappers in the early hours of Saturday morning after police worked out his location from his mobile telephone, which remained switched on, and sent a force of 150 officers to find him. The motive of the kidnapping was not immediately known.

“It was a harrowing time, and I am glad to be back,” Basu told the Times of India.

Crime — especially rape and other crimes against women — has emerged as a hot political issue among middle-class Indian voters following the brutal gang-rape and assault last year of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student.

Crimes against business owners and executives, such as the abortive kidnapping of Basu, are not uncommon in India.

In July last year, the human resources manager of Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar car factory was killed and 96 people injured when rioting workers went on the rampage, wielding iron rods and car parts.

And it was in the industrial area of Noida that Lalit Kishore Chaudhary, local chief executive of Italy’s Graziano Trasmissioni India, was killed in 2008. His skull was smashed with a hammer after an angry crowd, probably including workers who had been dismissed, broke into the company’s factory.