Michael Lipin, Frances Alonzo January 16, 2014
WASHINGTON — Indian police announced that they have arrested two homeless men in connection with the alleged rape of a female Danish tourist in New Delhi, an incident that has drawn more criticism of India’s record of dealing with violence against women.
New Delhi authorities said on Wednesday the suspects were caught in possession of some of the 51-year old Danish woman’s belongings, including an iPod. They also released more details of the alleged assault, which happened a day earlier.
Police said the tourist was asking for directions back to her hotel when several men lured her to a secluded area near the New Delhi Railway Station, where they robbed and assaulted her at knife-point. The woman later returned to her hotel and told the staff what had happened.
She departed from India on Wednesday to return to Denmark, where officials said she has been receiving assistance from Danish authorities.
Foreign women assaulted
There has been a series assaults on foreign women in India in the past year.
Earlier this month, a Polish woman was raped by a taxi driver while traveling with her two-year-old daughter to New Delhi.
Last year, a female Swiss cyclist was gang-raped in central India, while a British woman said she was forced to jump out of her hotel room window to avoid a sexual attack in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.
London-based rights group Amnesty International responded to the latest incident by saying India is not fulfilling its human rights obligations.
India‘s record criticized
Speaking to VOA on Wednesday, the head of Amnesty’s women’s rights program, Cristina Finch, said the government must do more to solve the problem of sexual violence against all women in India.
“There needs to be better training of the police force to deal with survivors, so that when women come in to report sexual violence, those cases are taken seriously, investigated, followed up and prosecuted,” Finch said.
She also called on the international community to boost support for the work of India’s women’s rights activists.
“I don’t think that there is a magic bullet that would solve [the problem of violence against women], other than to say we should make sure that women are part of the solution,” she said.
Indian activists’ goals
In a recent interview with VOA, she said her group wants Indian police to register all sexual assault complaints filed by women.
“That is the first threshold that women really have to cross in India,” Dutt said.
“We also have to make sure that when police are registering complaints of rape, they are treating the women coming in with respect,” she said. “Because so often, women are dehumanized by the act of rape, and then face a dehumanization process from the entire legal system, starting with the Indian police. We really have got to change the mindsets at that level.”
Dutt also called for Indian judges to quickly hand down appropriate sentences against perpetrators of sexual crimes.
She said her organization ultimately wants to bring about a culture change in India, with men “stepping up and taking responsibility” for what she called “incredibly prevalent violence” against women.
Officials take action
India’s government adopted several measures last year in response to public outrage about high-profile rape cases, including the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a New Delhi bus in December 2012.
The Indian parliament passed a Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill that doubles the minimum prison term for rape causing death to 20 years. It also criminalizes voyeurism, stalking and acid attacks.
In other moves, Indian authorities launched an “I Respect Women” tourism campaign to reassure female travelers and introduced reforms aimed at encouraging women to report assaults.
Officials said 1,330 rapes were reported in and around New Delhi from January to October 2013, almost double the 706 cases reported for all of 2012.
Assessing authorities’ effectiveness
One factor that contributes to that mindset, he said, is police ineptitude.
“Police have advisories and standing orders about how to take care of the victims, how to do medical investigations, and how to provide aid to the victims. But that doesn’t happen,” Kant said. “We have a police force which has neither the educational level or the competence to deal with such crimes.”
However, Kant also said an Indian court’s relatively fast conviction last September of four men involved in the December 2012 New Delhi gang-rape is a positive sign.
“At least the message has gone out that the law will take its own course, and there will be fear of the law among the perpetrators,” he said.