Spanish-Brazilian tourist gang-raped in India ‘mentally strong’ as husband made to pose with £10,000 cheque

Couple are being escorted by police out of India after horrific ordeal that has sparked widespread outrage. Warning: This story contains details which some readers may find distressing

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 05 March 2024 12:46 GMT
Spanish woman raped during motorbike tour of India with husband

The Spanish-Brazilian woman who was allegedly gang-raped by seven men during a motorbike tour of India remains “mentally strong” despite suffering lasting trauma, a social worker who spoke to the victim has said.

The 28-year-old tourist was on a motorbike tour with her 64-year-old husband when they were attacked by a group of men in the Dumka district of the eastern state of Jharkhand on Friday night. They had already travelled to Pakistan and Bangladesh as part of their tour of South Asia, and were heading north towards Nepal at the time.

On Tuesday, the couple was escorted out of Jharkhand by officials who have been tasked with ensuring they safely leave India for the rest of their journey in Nepal, Dumka police chief Pitamber Singh Kherwar told The Independent.

He said police have now arrested four suspects, three of whom were pictured blindfolded and bound with rope on Monday, adding: “We have reached very close in arresting all the suspects and we will reveal more details shortly.”

Another police official said more suspects have been detained and are being interrogated.

The incident has triggered a major public reaction in India, with the attack condemned by leaders across the political spectrum. Before they left the country the couple was given Rs1m (more than £9,500) in compensation, and police released an image of the husband posing for a picture while receiving the cheque. The picture itself has provoked more outrage online.

Speaking to The Independent, Anjula Murmu, a social worker in Dumka who supported the victims, said: “The woman fought her preparators strongly but she was overpowered by the men, who repeatedly raped her for close to three hours. She was emotionally shattered but not broken, and to express her visible trauma is beyond words.”

The couple entered India at the Pakistan border in Amritsar in mid-July and had been travelling across the length and breadth of the country for the past six months, Ms Murmu said.

They are travel bloggers with a following of more than 600,000 people on Instagram, and had pitched a tent for the night on Friday amid scenic countryside, some 400km from Jharkhand’s state capital Ranchi.

“Their tent began shaking and they heard voices at around 7.30pm at night when the victim’s male partner began recording a video out of caution,” she said.

Indian police and forensic team investigate and collect samples at the site where a Spanish tourist was gangraped, near Kurmahaat, Dumka (EPA)

“He responded with a ‘hello’ and those outside responded with hello, before having a short conversation during which they appeared to be visibly drunk,” said Ms Murmu, who said she had seen the video recording.

The group left but returned with more men and began attacking the tent.

“The moment [the couple] came out they were attacked, with some of them restraining the man while the others went for the woman, who tried to get a knife out from her shoes and even hid in the dark to save herself,” she said.

Struggling to fight back tears with their faces covered with bruises, the couple released a video on their Instagram saying they were beaten up by seven men who held knives against their throats and raped the woman while restraining her male partner.

“Seven men raped me. They have beaten us and robbed us, although not many things [were taken] because what they wanted was to rape me,” she said in Spanish.

Police personnel escort men accused for allegedly carrying out a brutal assault on a Spanish woman, to a district court in Dumka, in India's Jharkhand state (AFP via Getty Images)

“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 said.

Jharkhand superintendent of police Mr Kherwar said it was a shameful incident and that local officials were in touch with the Spanish embassy, and providing them updates.

“We are disheartened by this shameful incident that occurred in Dumka and doing everything to nab all the culprits,” he said.

He said the couple insisted that they did not need escorting out of the country, but a police team was nonetheless sent with them as far as the Jharkhand border.

The Jharkhand High Court on Monday said it was aware of the case and asked the state government to file a report on the matter by Thursday.

The compensation amount given to the couple “would be converted into euros and transferred into the account of her husband”, Dumka deputy commissioner A Dodde told reporters.

But the police’s decision to release pictures and even a video of the husband being handed a cheque was widely criticised online. “As if the tragedy wasn’t monument of a shame enough… now this brazen insensitivity in front of cameras!” a user said on X.

“What sort of nonsense is this, reducing a woman’s dignity to monetary compensation? It’s as if she’s being violated all over again. And top of that a photo session!! This is so insensitive, What a shameless display!” said another.

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

“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 said.

It said it could not provide more details, citing data protection laws in Spain regarding consular cases.

The case has cast fresh spotlight on the prevalence of rape and sexual violence in India, in spite of tough laws that include the death penalty for rapists in some cases.

In 2022, India saw an average of almost 90 rapes reported daily – meaning one woman was raped every 18 minutes – according to 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.

Rights groups say the figures could be much higher as many women do not report cases, while the conviction rate also remains low in the country.

In 2012, the gang rape and gruesome murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi triggered huge protests across India and forced the government to change laws governing sexual assault in the country.

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