By Mumbai Bureau and Shyamantha Asokan and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi
A photo journalist was gang-raped in the Indian city of Mumbai, police said on Friday, evoking comparisons with a similar incident in Delhi in December that led to nationwide protests and a revision of the country’s rape laws.
The attack on Thursday evening triggered protests and an outcry on social media, with many users shocked that it took place in Mumbai, widely considered to be India’s safest city for women.
“An FIR has been registered … nobody has been arrested so far,” a head constable at the police station dealing with the case told Reuters. An FIR is a preliminary police report. Several people were detained for questioning, another policeman said. Some media reports said one man had been arrested.
In rowdy scenes in the upper house of parliament, the opposition accused the government of not doing enough to protect women, despite tougher sex crime laws brought in this year.
The victim, who is in her early twenties, was admitted on Thursday night to a hospital in south Mumbai, where she is in a stable condition, a hospital official told Reuters by e-mail.
The attack took place in an abandoned textile mill in Lower Parel, a gritty former industrial district that is now one of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods of luxury apartments, malls and bars, media reports said. The woman was working on an assignment with a male colleague.
“In the evening, the girl and her colleague were clicking pictures. Two men approached her asking her if she had permission to shoot. Another man then joined in and the photographer was gang-raped,” Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh told an Indian television station. Other reports said more men were involved in the attack.
“We’ve brought in 10 people for questioning. A case of gang rape has been filed,” Singh said.
Several dozen mainly male supporters of the right-wing Shiv Sena political party gathered with flags and banners outside the police station where the case was filed. A further protest was called later in the afternoon.
Women’s safety in India has been in the spotlight this year following the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in December, which led thousands of Indians to take to the streets in protest. The woman died of her injuries two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
The trials of the four men and one juvenile accused of the December attack are expected to conclude within the next three weeks. The verdict on the juvenile suspect is set for Aug 31. Closing arguments in the trial of the four adult suspects started on Thursday.
Following public outcry over the Delhi attack, India introduced tougher rape laws in March, which include the death penalty for repeat offenders and for those whose victims were left in a “vegetative state”.
In contrast to Delhi, Mumbai has long been considered a safer place for women to travel alone, even at night.
“(Mumbai) has this sense of security … but these things make us feel that maybe we are not really that safe,” said A. L. Sharada, director of Population First, an NGO that works on women’s rights issues.
“Women should be able to move freely and take up work. Why should we be worrying about something bad happening to us all the time?” Sharada added.