Amid the outcry over another gang-rape in India -- this time the sexual assault and robbery of a Swiss tourist -- a local politician has worsened things by partially blaming the victim for the crime.
Umashankar Gupta, home minister of Madhya Pradesh, the central Indian province where the rape took place, said the victim (who was in India for a cycling holiday with her husband) should have informed the local police of her travel itinerary.
"The rape of the Swiss national is unfortunate but foreign travelers should inform the police about their movements so they can be provided with adequate protection," he said.
"They often don't follow the state's rules.”
According to Indian media reports, on Friday evening a group of armed men raped the woman, 39, after tying up her husband, 29, to a tree in a forest in the Datia district of Madhya Pradesh. Following the assault, the men, believed to be poor local farmers, fled with 10,000 rupees in cash ($185), a laptop, camera and mobile phones.
The Swiss couple, from Lausanne, embarked from Mumbai on Feb. 12 to travel through central India by bike.
Indian police have since arrested six men between the ages of 20 and 25 in connection with the case. There are conflicting reports over whether the men confessed to the crime or not.
Linus von Castelmur, the Swiss ambassador to India, said in a statement that the Swiss couple are now safely ensconced at the embassy in Delhi and has called on Indian authorities to conduct a swift investigation.
"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. Their health and treatment is the priority of the moment," the embassy said in a statement.
As for minister Gupta, his opponents in the Madhya Pradesh General Assembly are calling for his resignation. Members of the state’s Congress Party dressed in black and shouted slogans against the state government, which is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Some wore slogans decrying the high incidence of rape in Madhya, one of the poorest parts of India.
An American tourist named Nancy visiting the local city of Bhopal expressed her outrage to NDTV.
"That's like blaming a victim for a crime and that is not right. I think it is not the victim that is the problem, it is not the tourist that is the problem. The problem is trying to figure out why this is happening, there are a lot of rapes happening in India. What's going on with that? It is all over the international news," she said.
The subject of rape in India has become a global topic in the wake of the horrific sexual assault of a young Indian medical student in Delhi late last year sparked a national wave of protests and soul-searching. (She subsequently died from her injuries.)
But now, a high-profile attack on a foreign woman may lead to worries that India’s tourism industry, which accounts for some 6 percent of annual GDP, may be hurt.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.