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Spanish travel blogger gang raped by seven men in India

Vicente and Fernanda were travelling through India when the incident happened
Fernanda and Vicente were travelling through India when the incident happened

Three men appeared in court in India on Monday accused of the gang rape of a travel blogger on a round-the-world motorbike trip with her husband.

Police are hunting four other suspects for the brutal assault on the couple, who are Spanish and were in eastern India, in Jharkhand state’s Dumka district, when they were attacked on Friday night.

Fernanda, 28, and Vicente, 63, have 300,000 followers on social media, where they have been documenting their global tour through 66 countries on motorbike.

The influencers posted a video explaining their horrific experience after they had camped for the night on their way to the border with Nepal.

“Something has happened to us that we would not wish on anyone, seven men have raped me, they have beaten us and robbed us, although not many things, because what they wanted was to rape me,” read the caption on one video, which showed Fernanda’s badly bruised face.

“My face looks like this, but it’s not what hurts me the most,” she said in one post, “Thank God we are alive.”

The distressed couple posted a video explaining what happened before taking it down
The distressed couple posted a video explaining what happened before taking it down

“They beat us,” Vicente said. “They put a knife to my neck, and told me they were going to kill me. Fernanda was raped. Seven of them. Seven men. Sons of bitches.”

On Sunday, the three accused were seen being escorted into court with sacks on their heads by police officers holding ropes tied around their waists.

“We have formed a team to hunt the remaining suspects,” said Pitamber Singh Kherwar, a senior local police officer. “We have to ensure strict punishment.”

The men are thought to be aged between 20 and 30 years old. They are accused of having raped Fernanda in shifts.

The bloggers, who are in secure accommodation provided by the authorities, now plan to return to Spain before resuming their trip at a later date.

The couple were in court on Monday and were given about £9,500 as compensation by the authorities in India.

“We have given him a compensation of one million rupees. We are conducting a thorough investigation and will try to ensure a speedy trial and conviction,” said Anjaneyulu Dodde, deputy commissioner of Dumku, after delivering the cheque.

Tourist economy

The court said the crime against a foreign woman could harm the tourism economy. It was “likely to bring adverse publicity against the country and thereby tarnishing the image of India across the globe,” it said.

Vicente said the authorities expected the men to be given life sentences and that they had confessed to the crime.

He said: “We were already inside the tent when three men arrived on two motorcycles and started shouting at us and throwing stones. When I looked out, I saw that one of them was carrying a dagger up his sleeve.”

“We were very afraid and Fernanda took one of the tent pegs to defend herself in case we were attacked. But as soon as we got out, we saw that four more men had arrived.

Police escort three men accused of gang rape  in Dumka, India's Jharkhand state
Police escort three men accused of gang rape in Dumka, India's Jharkhand state - AFP

“Three of the men grabbed Fernanda. I tried to go after her, but the other four started hitting me [...] They tied me up and put a knife to my neck”.

“Fernanda is still in pain, but she feels strong enough to take the motorbike and get out of here. The plan is to go to Nepal on Tuesday, to Kathmandu. It’s a two-day trip. There we’ll catch a plane to Spain,” Vicente told the El Mundo newspaper.

“We will leave the bikes in Nepal. We want to rest and be with our family. Then, when Fernanda is fully recovered, we will continue our tour of Asia. We want to finish in New Zealand.”

One rape every 18 minutes

An average of nearly 90 rapes a day were reported in India in 2022, according to data from India’s  National Crime Records Bureau. That is equivalent to a rape every 18 minutes.

Large numbers go unreported due to prevailing stigmas around victims and a lack of faith in police investigations.

Convictions remain rare, with cases getting stuck for years in India’s clogged-up criminal justice system.

The notorious gang rape and murder of an Indian student made global headlines in 2012.

Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, was raped, assaulted and left for dead by five men and a teenager on a bus in New Delhi in December that year.

That crime brought weeks of protests, and eventually a change in the law to introduce the death penalty for rape.