New Delhi – A fatal sexual assault has once again drawn Indians to the streets to express their outrage, as officials promise swift justice but appear to work to stem violence against women. There were protests this weekend after the rape of a 34-year-old woman, who died of horrific injuries inflicted in the attack, in India’s financial capital Mumbai.
Officials said the victim was raped and then tortured with an iron bar in a truck parked on the outskirts of Mumbai early Friday morning. She died at a local hospital a day later.
Grainy but spooky security camera footage from the crime scene appears to show a man standing over the victim’s body.
Mumbai police arrested a 45-year-old man and charged him with rape and murder.
“The investigation revealed that there was only one person involved in the execution of the crime,” Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale told reporters. “He confessed to the crime.
Mumbai police have stepped up patrols in the city and the government of the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, is reviewing its measures to ensure the safety of women.
“The heinous crime which took place in Saki Naka (suburb of Mumbai) is a disgrace for humanity. The case will be tried in fast-track procedure and the culprit will be severely punished, ensuring that justice is served to the woman who lost life because of this horrific crime. Authorities are urged to speed up the investigation, “Maharashtra State Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray wrote on Twitter.
The case bears an eerie similarity to the gruesome rape and murder of a young medical student in New Delhi in 2012, which sparkedand made international headlines. The attack exposed the extent of sexual violence against women in India, prompting lawmakers to toughen penalties in rape cases.
Indian law prohibits the identification of rape victims, but the country’s media dubbed the victim of the 2012 attack “Nirbhaya” or “Fearless”. She was raped on a moving bus by six men who also used a metal bar to inflict massive internal injuries. She died in hospital two weeks later.
Seven years later, in 2020, four of the six convicted wereby hanging. A fifth reportedly died by suicide in prison in 2013. The sixth was 17 at the time of the attack and was treated as a minor under Indian law. He was released in 2015 after serving three years in a reformatory.
But despite years of outrage and protests, and tougher sentences and prosecutions for sexual violence, India continues to report high numbers of rapes. According to government data, more than 32,000 rapes were reported in 2019, a year for which figures are available. That means almost four rapes every hour, on average.
The country also reports a high number of other crimes against women, including kidnapping, trafficking, domestic violence and. Over a thousand such cases were reported every day, on average, in 2019.
The latest case in Mumbai, which adds to a string of other reported rapes in Mahrashtra state, has sparked outrage both online and on the ground. Several activists staged protests in Mumbai over the weekend, demanding tough penalties for those charged and a safer city for women.
On Friday evening, a 15-year-old girl was abducted as she got off a train in Ulhasnagar, near Mumbai. She was taken to a deserted room in the train station and raped. Last week, a 14-year-old girl was reportedly kidnapped and raped by a rickshaw driver and several of his associates in Pune, a technology hub near Mumbai.
More than a dozen suspects have been arrested in this case to date. Two women from India’s marginalized Dalit community last yearin separate incidents within a week.