New Delhi — A deadly sexual assault has once again drawn Indians into the streets to voice their outrage, as officials vow swift justice but appear at pains to stem violence against women. There were protests over the weekend after the rape of a 34-year-old woman, who died of the horrific injuries inflicted in the attack, in India’s financial capital, Mumbai.
Officials have said the victim was raped and then tortured with an iron rod in a truck parked in suburban Mumbai early on Friday morning. She died at a local hospital a day later.
Grainy but chilling security camera video from the crime scene appears to show a man standing over the victim’s body.
Mumbai police have arrested a 45-year-old man and charged him with rape and murder.
“The probe revealed there’s only one person involved in the execution of the crime,” Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale told reporters. “He has confessed to the crime.”
Mumbai Police have increased patrols in the city, and the government of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, is reviewing its measures to ensure the safety of women.
“The heinous crime that took place in Saki Naka (Mumbai suburb) is a disgrace to humanity. The case will be tried on fast track & the culprit will be severely punished, ensuring justice to the woman who lost her life due to this dreadful crime. Officials are directed to speed up investigation,” Maharashtra state’s 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 scope of sexual violence against women in India, prompting lawmakers to stiffen penalties in rape cases.
Indian law prohibits rape victims from being identified, 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 a hospital two weeks later.
Seven years later, in 2020, four of the six convicts wereby hanging. A fifth allegedly died by suicide in jail 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 reform home.
But despite years of outrage and protests, and the toughening of punishments and prosecution for sexual violence, India continues to report a high number of rapes. According to government data more than 32,000 rapes were reported in 2019, the year for which figures are available. That means nearly four rapes every hour, on average.
The country also reports a high number of other crimes against women, including kidnapping, trafficking, domestic violence and. More than a thousand such cases were reported every day, on average, during 2019.
The latest case in Mumbai, which comes on top of a string of other rapes that were reported in Mahrashtra state, triggered outrage both online and on the ground. Several activists held protests in Mumbai over the weekend, demanding strict punishment for the accused, and a safer city for women.
On Friday night, a 15-year-old girl was abducted after she got off a train in Ulhasnagar, near Mumbai. She was taken to a deserted room at the train station and raped. Last week, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped and gang-raped by an auto-rickshaw driver and several of his associates in Pune, a technology hub near Mumbai.
More than a dozen suspects have been arrested in that case so far. Last year, two women from India’s marginalized Dalit communityin separate incidents within a week.