An American woman was gang raped while hitchhiking back to her hotel in an Indian tourist town in the Himalayas, renewing concern over female travelers’ safety in the country.
The 30-year-old woman was attacked early yesterday morning in Manali after visiting a friend, local police officer Neel Chand Sharma said by phone. The men offered to drop her at the hotel and instead took her to a secluded spot to rape her, Sharma said.
The rape follows the December assault in New Delhi of a female student who later died and an attack on a Swiss tourist in March. The Delhi rape, in which the woman was left naked at the side of a road near the city airport with a male friend, triggered street protests and drew attention to the scale of sexual violence in the world’s largest democracy.
Safety concerns among women travelers were partly to blame for a 35 percent drop in foreign female tourist arrivals in the first three month of this year, according to an April study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India.
Police haven’t arrested anyone in yesterday’s rape so far, Sharma said, adding road blocks have been set up to try to catch the perpetrators. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is in contact with authorities and has no further comment because of privacy concerns, it said in an e-mailed statement.
The U.S. and the U.K. issued travel advisories urging their citizens to be cautious or avoid traveling to India following the attacks.
A 2011 survey by the Thomson Reuters foundation listed India as the fourth-worst place in the world to be a woman, after Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan. The report cited abortions of girl fetuses, human trafficking, sexual violence and poor education.
The December rape in New Delhi set off a debate in a country where a woman was raped every 22 minutes in 2011, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. In the two-hour assault, the woman was allegedly raped several times before she and a male friend were dumped naked along a road near the city’s airport.
Passersby ignored the couple and police argued over where to take them as they lay bleeding on the ground, according to televised comments by the man who survived the attack. The woman died from her injuries two weeks later at a Singapore hospital.
A 39-year-old Swiss woman was raped in Madhya Pradesh state in March, while a British woman jumped out of the window of her hotel room in Agra that same month to flee an assault by staff, she later told police.