Reports of a Swiss Tourist Being Gang-Raped in India Is a Grim Reminder of the Need for Tougher Sexual Assault Laws

Amid a flurry of human rights criticism about India's highly publicized rape problem, India's media outlets are reporting that 13 men are being held and questioned about the gang-rape Friday of a Swiss tourist camping in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

The AP has the still-emerging story:

Local police superintendent C. S. Solanki told the Press Trust of India that the woman and her husband had camped out for the night in a forest after bicycling from the temple town of Orchha on Friday when they were attacked by a group of eight men.

He said the couple were beaten and had their belongings stolen, and that the woman was gang-raped.

Solanki said police were questioning 13 men in connection with the attack.

CBS reported early Sunday morning that police have now detained 20 men in connection to the rape, although no arrests have been made. According to a more detailed police account of the incident, the Swiss couple was camping in a forest near Jaita village when they were attacked by a group of men armed with wooden sticks. The men beat up the husband, tied him to a tree, and then raped the woman.

The recent gang-rape of a woman traveling on a bus in New Delhi has pushed outrage about rape to the forefront of Indian politics. Human rights groups have sharply criticized government officials and police in India for not taking rape allegations seriously. Amid widespread public protests, the government has been under pressure to bolster legal protection for rape accusers, a reform effort that on Thursday culminated in India's Congress-led cabinet clearing a new anti-rape bill to help combat sexual violence.

The bill not only calls for tougher sentences (a minimum of 20 years to natural life, or the death penalty) for convicted rapists, but it also sets tougher penalties "for non-sexual but gender-related acid attacks on women and makes new offences of stalking and voyeurism." These measures certainly constitute some form of progress, although women's rights organizations in India zeroed in quickly on a glaring omission in the new bill: it fails to criminalize rape within a marriage.

Swiss Tourist Gang-Raped in Central India [NY Times]

Gang-rape of tourist in India rekindles outrage [CBS News]