Vicente y Fernanda: Spanish travel blogger gang raped in India

A Spanish tourist on a motorbike trip through India has allegedly been been gang-raped by seven men after stopping with her husband to camp for the night.

Four men have now been arrested over the alleged attack, which occurred on Friday night in the eastern state of Jharkhand in the Dumka district, according to local media.

The remaining suspects had been identified and would be arrested “soon”, Jharkhand police chief Ajay Kumar Singh told The Indian Express newspaper.

The 28-year-old victim — who has not been identified by authorities — is a motorbike travel blogger who has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram with her husband, under the handle Vuelta al Mundo en Moto (Around the World by Motorbike).

The couple, Vicente and Fernanda, have travelled to 66 countries since leaving Barcelona five years ago, according to their profile.

They announced the disturbing news to their followers in a series of Instagram Stories on Friday night.

“Something has happened to us that we would not wish on anyone, seven men have raped me, they have beaten us and robbed us, although not many things, because what they wanted was to rape me,” read the caption on one video.

“We are in the hospital with the police, it happened tonight here in India.”

The distraught woman had visible bruises and swelling on her face.

Vicente explained that they had been brought to the Saraiyahat Community Health Centre so Fernanda could have a rape kit done.

“They beat us,” he said. “They put a knife to my neck, and told me they were going to kill me. Fernanda was raped. Seven of them. Seven men. Sons of bitches.”

He said in another post, showing his broken teeth and swollen lip, that the was hit several times in the head with a helmet and his “mouth is destroyed”.

The woman was able to reach a police patrol van at around 11pm and was taken to hospital for treatment, police officer Pitamber Singh Kherwar told The Times of India newspaper.

The couple had recently concluded a trip to Sri Lanka before the Indian leg of their journey, and were on their way to Nepal via Bhagalpur.

The attack took place after the couple stopped to camp the night in a tent near the Hansdiha market.

“This is a condemnable incident and the police are taking appropriate action,” said Mithilesh Kumar Thakur, a state minister in Jharkhand.

“The culprits will not be spared.”

The Spanish embassy in India has contacted authorities and dispatched staff to the region to assist the couple, Euronews reported.

An average of nearly 90 rapes were reported in India every day in 2022, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau.

However, large numbers go unreported due to prevailing stigmas around victims and a lack of faith in police investigations.

Convictions remain rare, with cases getting stuck for years in India’s clogged-up criminal justice system.

The notorious gang rape and murder of an Indian student made global headlines in 2012.

Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, was raped and assaulted and left for dead by five men and a teenager on a bus in New Delhi in December that year.

The horrific crime shone an international spotlight on India’s high levels of sexual violence and sparked weeks of protests, and eventually a change in the law to introduce the death penalty for rape.

Sexual violence against female tourists is also disturbingly common.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) says travellers should “exercise a high degree of caution” in India.

“Women may face higher levels of verbal and physical harassment or sexual assault,” DFAT says. “Avoid travelling alone, even in major cities and tourist sites. It is rare for people who commit these crimes to be successfully prosecuted by the law.”

In one notorious case in 2018, 33-year-old Latvian tourist Liga Skromane was drugged, raped and beheaded before her corpse was left hanging upside down in a forest.

The Ireland resident had travelled to Kerala hoping to be treated for depression at a popular yoga retreat, but went missing a few weeks after arriving in the country.

Reduxx founder Anna Slatz shared Vicente and Fernanda’s Instagram videos on X, where they have been viewed 87.5 million times.

“The level of sexual aggression I witnessed while living in India for several years was unlike anywhere else I have ever been,” journalist David Josef Volodzko wrote in response.

“Once a total stranger, a British woman, asked to sleep in my bed and pretend to be my girlfriend on a train ride because a man walking by in the hall had licked her foot and she felt unsafe.

“I introduced a female friend to a young Indian man and instead of shaking her hand, he groped her breast, and when she became angry he became extremely hostile and I thought I was going to have to fight the guy.

“I never met a female traveller who had not been groped or assaulted or worse, even if they had only been in country for mere days.

“I love India. It is and always will be one of my favourite places in the world. But I have advised female friends who asked me not to travel there alone. This is a real problem in Indian society that warrants more attention and that I hope will improve in time.”

— with AFP

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