Anger in India after Spanish tourist’s rape as police arrest three people: ‘Thought we were going to die’

Anger in India after Spanish tourist’s rape as police arrest three people: ‘Thought we were going to die’

The gang-rape of a tourist from Spain in the eastern state of Jharkhand in India has sparked anger and a discussion on safety in a country with rising crimes against women.

A 28-year-old woman and her husband were assaulted in the Dumka district of Jharkhand where they had set up their tent for the evening on Friday night, according to the tourists and the police. The couple, who manage an Instagram page chronicling their motorbike travels across South Asia, posted a video recounting their dreadful ordeal.

Police said they arrested three men and were searching for four others in connection with the gang-rape of the Spanish-Brazilian woman and the assault of her 64-year-old husband.

The Spanish citizens were found on a roadside around 11pm on 1 March, according to the police.

The incident came to light after the couple shared a video describing the attack, which has since been removed. They later thanked their followers for support in a new video, where she appeared with facial bruises.

“The police told me to turn off the post so as not to disturb the investigation. I will post it later,” the woman said on an Instagram story.

“My face looks like this, but it’s not what hurts me the most. I thought we were going to die. Thank God we are alive,” she wrote.

The survivor earlier revealed in an interview with Spanish TV channel Antena 3 that she was raped in turns by the men for about two hours while some watched.

Pitamber Singh Kherwar, the police superintendent of Dumka, told reporters that the couple stopped a patrol van, which then transported them to a nearby health centre for medical care.

“The couple were speaking in a mixture of English and Spanish so the patrolling team could not understand them initially. But they appeared visibly injured so they were taken for treatment,” he said, adding that they then told doctors about the rape. He said medical tests also confirmed rape.

“The other four accused have been identified, and searches are underway. They will be nabbed soon,” he added.

Travelling on two motorcycles, the couple had arrived in Dumka from Bangladesh and were on their way to Nepal through Bihar.

The Spanish embassy said they were in contact with the couple and providing support.

“Kindly note that the Data Protection Law in Spain does not allow to share any details regarding consular cases. The Embassy of Spain remains in permanent contact with Spanish citizens in need, as is the case, and continues to liaise actively with the Indian authorities. The Embassy is very grateful to them for their cooperation,” it told The Independent.

The incident has sparked debate on the safety of women in the country. Several people offered their support on the couple’s Instagram and YouTube videos.

Many women travel influencers also voiced their concerns on social media. A hashtag asking for justice for the victim was also shared widely among the biking community.

Travel influencer Ankita Kumar, who goes by the username, wrote: “We have failed her as a country, we need to make sure justice is served.”

Another user wrote: “So ashamed and disappointed I am.”

Rekha Sharma, the head of India’s top women’s rights body – the National Commission for Women (NCW) – faced backlash after her remarks to a post made by a journalist went viral. Journalist David Josef Volodzko wrote that despite India being one of his favourite places, the “level of sexual aggression” he observed while residing in the country was unparalleled compared to anywhere else he had been. He also shared instances during which he had observed such aggression, adding: “I never met a female traveler who had not been groped or assaulted or worse, even if they had only been in country for mere days.”

Ms Sharma responded: “Did you ever report the incident to police? If not then you are totally an irresponsible person. Writing only on social media and defaming whole country is not good choice.” Several people on X, formerly Twitter, accused Ms Sharma of victim blaming and focussing more about how India was being perceived rather than the crisis at hand.

She later clarified in a post that an NCW “member met the surviver within a few hours and was there to see that all seven accused people were arrested”.

The Brazilian foreign ministry has also reached out to the victim.

In 2022, India saw an average of almost 90 rapes reported daily – meaning one woman was raped every 18 minutes – as per the National Crime Records Bureau, which documented 31,516 cases of rape that year. The states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of cases.

There was chaos in the Jharkhand assembly over the incident leading to two adjournments. The Jharkhand government has formed a special investigation team to probe the allegations, NDTV said.