Now that a foreigner’s been gang raped, will India actually do something?

March 17, 2013
Obsession
Modern States
March 17, 2013

Here we go again.

A Swiss woman camping with her husband in India was gang raped, and CNN reports that five men have confessed to the crime. The incident comes about three months after the deadly gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus through Delhi, which led to public outrage, weeks of protest and global media attention. The Indian government pledged to “fast-track” the trial of five men and a juvenile; one of the accused hanged himself in jail last week, although his lawyer alleges he was killed.

The assault against the Swiss woman, on a cycling trip through the state of Madhya Pradesh, is hardly the first to occur after the high-profile rape in India’s capital. But because the latest victim is a foreigner, India’s reaction warrants some scrutiny. Already, the Swiss government has said it hopes the attackers will be “swiftly identified and would appear before a court to answer for their actions.”

Swiss media report the couple are from Lausanne and were on their way to the Taj Mahal. Last month, Quartz reported that the Delhi gang rape led to some extra caution among travelers; one hotelier cited “ladies only” floors and special cabs for women. Separately, a tourism official said: “Indians do not tolerate such a crime committed on a woman, whether she is an Indian or foreigner. The massive protests that erupted in the aftermath of the incident prove this point.”

We might not see as many candles lit or slogans chanted, but economics might trigger a stronger reaction this time around: Tourism and travel is projected to contribute nearly 8% of India’s GDP growth over the next 10 years.

Already, Twitter is abuzz with the image the country is presenting to the world. Some, however, noted the hypocrisy of singling out developing nations like India to confront sexual violence. A woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. In the US? Every six minutes. A judge in the US state of Ohio today found two high school football players guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Still, it’s clear India has a ways to go in at least one area: Politicians are still saying the stupidest things in rape’s aftermath, just as they did back in December. The Madhya Pradesh home minister told the Hindustan Times the incident was “unfortunate,” but added that the Swiss tourists should have registered their whereabouts with police. He said: “This is the system but it’s not being followed.”

Somehow, it seems quite a few systems failed in India this weekend.

Follow Mitra on Twitter @mitrakalita. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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