'Rape is not the end of life' says victim of brutal Indian gang attack

Police make more arrests as photojournalist vows to return to work after ordeal

In southern Mumbai about 1,000 people, including many journalists, protest attacks on women.
Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

The last of five men wanted over the gang rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai, India, was arrested Sunday, according to Indian police, who said charges would be filed soon.

Police have promised swift justice for a crime that has renewed public outcry over sexual violence in India.

Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Indian victim said Sunday that she was anxious to get back to work following her ordeal. “Rape is not the end of life,” she told the Times of India in an interview.

Her condition was described as stable over the weekend following the brutal attack, in which she was repeatedly raped by up to five suspects in a deserted textile mill while her male colleague was tied up and beaten.

Police from India's elite crime branch arrested the first suspect on Friday, who then handed authorities the names of four other men.

Indian politicians and the public have expressed outrage over Thursday night's attack, which drew parallels to the deadly gang rape of a student on a New Delhi bus in December that shocked the country and sparked nationwide protests calling for harsher punishments for attacks on women.

The attack took place Thursday evening in Lower Parel, a onetime textile-manufacturing neighborhood of southern Mumbai that over the past decade has changed dramatically. Today, upscale malls, trendy restaurants and superluxury condominiums sit side by side with abandoned textile mills and sprawling slums.

The incident sparked anger on social-media websites, and about 1,000 people -- including members of several local journalists' associations -- gathered Friday evening in southern Mumbai to stage a silent protest. Some wore black armbands, and others carried placards reading "Stop rape" and "City of shame."

Police said the woman was on assignment to take pictures of the neighborhood for a magazine, when five men confronted her and her colleague at around 7 p.m. After initially offering to help her get permission to shoot inside a crumbling, isolated building, the men became aggressive and accused her colleague of being involved in a local crime.

After he denied involvement in the crime, they tied his hands with a belt and took the woman to another part of the compound and raped her, Mumbai's police commissioner, Satyapal Singh, told reporters.

"It is a shameful and extremely disturbing event," he said.

The woman remained in hospital Saturday. Police declined to say whom she was working for at the time of the assault.

The attack shocked the city, seen as far safer for women than the capital. On Friday, police stood watch in forested patches while others walked through overgrown grass around the cordoned-off crime scene.

"We will gather all the clinching evidence and aim to get the maximum punishment, which we hope will be done through a fast-track court," Singh said, adding that 20 police teams have been formed as part of the investigation. 

Expanded sexual-assault laws

Attacks like Thursday's have heightened concerns about sexual violence in India. The Dec. 16 gang rape and murder of the student on a moving bus in New Delhi shook a country, long inured to violence against women and sparked protests demanding better protection for them.

That case, which is now in the final stages of trial, led to a tougher anti-rape laws. The new measures increased punishment for sex offenders, added the death penalty if a victim died, broadened the definition of sexual assault, increased prison terms for rape and criminalized voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and trafficking of women.

Sex crimes have continued across India since the New Delhi gang rape, and Thursday's attack once again captured the attention of the media and the public.

"Women need to be vigilant and aware of themselves and their surroundings. There is no solution, no cure," said Swati Pillai, who works in southern Mumbai at an advertising firm.

Manijiri Jamadagni, a business manager and mother, said the incident was "very disturbing."

"Bombay was always safe, but in recent years it's been changing. It's not the same," she said, using Mumbai's former name.

The attack was also discussed in India's parliament, where junior Home Minister R.P.N. Singh told lawmakers that the government has asked the state of Maharashtra, whose capital is Mumbai, for a detailed report on the attack.

He said the federal government recommended that the "harshest" punishment be handed down for anyone found guilty in the case.

India's law minister, Kapil Sibal, said sexual assaults must be dealt with "in the most severe fashion."

"This country cannot afford to have our women and children insecure in the hands of those who attack them," he said.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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