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Police in eastern India on Tuesday said they arrested seven men for allegedly gang-raping a foreign tourist, an incident that set off renewed fury in the country over a “rape culture” that it has been attempting to defeat for more than a decade, CNN reported.

Two travel bloggers traveling by motorcycle from West Bengal to Nepal said in an Instagram post that they were attacked by a group of seven men while camping in a forest on Friday night. The attackers, holding knives to the couple’s throats, sexually abused the woman, a Brazilian national, and beat her male partner, who is Spanish.

Sexual violence is a widespread problem in India: National statistics indicated 31,516 rape cases in 2022, an average of 86 per day. Nonetheless, since most cases involve women from lower castes or indigenous tribes, they do not receive much public attention, the Washington Post wrote.

Writer Karanjeet Kaur told the Post that this case stood out because it victimized foreigners who have access to huge audiences, especially as they decided to speak out in a country where rapes usually go unreported.

The gang rape on Friday caused an uproar in the national media, among the public, politicians, Bollywood actors, and activists, and triggered renewed conversation on the issue of sexual violence nationwide.

Despite a crackdown and tougher laws and sentences – including the death penalty – that followed the 2012 gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh, rapes have risen in India by more than 50 percent.

That’s even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the 2014 general election on a platform promising greater safety for women.

Meanwhile, the BJP-led government of the Hindu-majority state of Gujarat last year freed 11 men convicted of gang-raping a Muslim woman, Bilkis Bano, in 2002, causing a furor. The move was quashed in January by the Supreme Court, the BBC wrote.

Analysts attribute the lack of progress on the issue to India’s patriarchal culture, which downplays sexual harassment and violence, as well as its caste system.

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