Police have arrested the last of five men wanted in connection with the gang-rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai.
They said charges would be filed soon in a case that has caused public outrage and renewed the debate over whether women can be safe inIndia.
The victim, a 22-year-old Indian woman, said she was anxious to return to work after Thursday night’s assault, in which five men repeatedly raped her while her male colleague was beaten and tied up in an abandoned textile mill in the country’s financial capital.
A statement from Jaslok hospital, where the woman has been since the attack, said her condition was being monitored but that she was “much better” and is being visited by her family. Indian law forbids identifying rape victims by name.
Police arrested the fifth suspect on Sunday in Delhi, the capital, after rounding up the other four in Mumbai.
“We will file a comprehensive charge sheet soon,” said Mumbai’s police commissioner, Satyapal Singh. He said police had the evidence to prosecute the suspects, including the victim’s testimony and medical samples taken at the hospital where she was treated after the assault.
It is rare for rape victims to visit police or hospital immediately after an attack in India, where an entrenched culture of tolerance for sexual violence has led to many cases going unreported. Women often face social or police pressure to stay quiet about sexual assault, experts say, and those who do report cases are often subjected to public ridicule or social stigma.
People across India were shocked in December by the brutal gang-rape in Delhi of a 23-year-old student who died two weeks later from her injuries. Pledging to crack down, the federal government created fast-track courts for rape cases, doubled prison sentences for rape, and criminalised voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women.
Under intense pressure, police have acted quickly to hunt down the five suspects in the Mumbai case. The Maharashtra state home minister, RR Patil, visited investigators at a Mumbai police station on Saturday night, and the government has urged the harshest punishment for those found guilty.
The five suspects – including two picked up overnight and two arrested earlier – are likely to face prosecution under a strict new law that sets the maximum prison sentence for rape at 20 years.
Police said the suspects targeted the photojournalist as she and her male colleague were taking pictures on a magazine assignment in a south Mumbai neighbourhood where luxury malls and condominiums sit alongside sprawling slums and abandoned mills.
The suspects pretended to help get her permission to shoot then tied up the male journalist and dragged the woman into shrubbery where they assaulted her while threatening her with a broken beer bottle, police said.
A court on Saturday ordered two suspects to be held until 30 August, and police said one would undergo medical tests to determine his age after his family said he was a juvenile of 16. Police maintain he is 19, which makes him eligible for trial as an adult.
The eldest suspect is 25.