Authorities have arrested six suspects Sunday for another gang rape of a bus passenger in northern India, just four weeks after a similar attack on a female passenger in the capital inspired mass outrage and protests against the widespread rape problem in the country.
The driver of the bus refused to let the woman – the only passenger on the bus – off at her village, instead driving her to a remote location where he, the conductor, and five friends brutally raped her throughout the night, according to police spokesman Raj Jeet Singh. The woman was returned to her village Saturday morning.
"They threatened me with a sharp edged weapon and did wrong things with me. They kept me confined all through the night and forced me to do what they want," the victim told CNN-IBN.
Deputy superintendent of police Gurmej Singh said all six suspects have confessed – presumably under heavy police interrogation. Photos showed a large group police escorting the prisoners, who were put into black hoods and tied with chains.
After a 23-year-old woman was gang raped on a New Delhi bus on December 16, subsequently dying of her injuries, widespread protests rocked the nation.
Despite the quick attention seemingly being given to this case, critics allege that the police have not paid attention to the problem of rape, and are unlikely to do so now.
"It's a very deep malaise … Police haven't dealt with the issue severely in the past. The message that goes out is that the punishment doesn’t match the crime. Criminals think they can get away with it," said Seema Mustafa, head of the Center for Policy Analysis.
It furthermore appears police may be treating this case with the same degree of condescension and flippancy. Authorities told the media the victim was "mentally unstable" and publicly announced her name, a move the Times of India called "completely insensitive" and an egregious mistake in lieu of the "incessant highlighting of the need for being sensitive towards rape victims following the Delhi gang rape."
According to official figures, the number of reported rapes has risen from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011 – a 10-fold increase. The total number of violent crimes against women reported in 2011 was more than a staggering total of 220,000. Government critics allege that the vast majority of rapes go unreported, a consequence of a government that does not treat sexual assault as a priority and a culture that often treats rape victims as irreparably damaged.
Some protestors have angrily called for rapists to be sentenced to death. Amnesty International India chief Ananth Guruswamy cautioned against these demands, saying, "there is no evidence that the threat of execution works as a special deterrent," and that "imposing the death penalty for sexual assault cases would likely only worsen the situation, as judges would hesitate to give such an extreme sentence, and the legal process would become even lengthier and more complicated" – possibly contributing to the culture of impunity.
"Most" women in India have been the victim of some kind of sexual harassment or abuse on public transportation or on the street, said Indian Council on Global Relations analyst Seema Sirohi.