MUMBAI // An intern photojournalist has been raped by five men in Mumbai while she was on assignment for a magazine.

The victim, 22, was attacked on Thursday evening while at an abandoned textile mill with a male colleague.

Attackers separated the two and the man was tied up with a belt while she was raped, police said.

It happened less than nine months after a student died from the injuries she suffered in a similar attack on a New Delhi bus. Her death caused national outpourings of anger and led to the introduction of a law with harsher penalties for sex crimes.

The Mumbai victim was in hospital yesterday under observation but was said to be stable.

Her colleague was helping police to identify the attackers. One suspect was arrested yesterday.

“It’s very, very shocking,” said Nasreen Contractor, a director at the Women’s Research and Action Group in Mumbai. “Despite so much hue and cry since December this continues to happen.

“It’s very frightening for Mumbai because we consider ourselves a safer city.”

The rape has again highlighted India’s endemic sexual violence and brought doubt on the new law’s effectiveness in protecting women.

The attack took place shortly before sunset in Lower Parel, an area where many of Mumbai’s old textile mills are located.

Much of it has been redeveloped and now houses modern office development and several upmarket bars and clubs.

Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh called for the case to be conducted in a fast-track court, which is available to prosecutors as part of the law introduced after December’s attack.

If caught and convicted, the five attackers could face up to 20 years in prison, which could extend to life imprisonment. If they have a prior conviction of rape, they could receive the death penalty.

Mr Singh said he was committed to building the strongest possible case against those responsible.

“Mumbai police will do its best to collect all the evidence so that a foolproof case is made out in the court and they get maximum punishment,” Mr Singh said.

Sumangala Biradar, a family lawyer in Mumbai who specialises in women rights, said: “The outcome of the case depends on which court it is sent to.

“Of course, we expect it to go through the fast-track court but the outcome will depend on how the investigation is conducted. “The government has to take this case, or any other case of violence against women seriously.

“Only when the police and courts do a case justice can you use it to make a strong point – that any sort of violence against women is not permissible.”

The new law also expands on the definition of rape and says that the absence of physical struggle does not equal consent.
Punishable under the law are acts of stalking, voyeurism and disrobing, which is a common form of abuse against women in India.

So far none of the suspects in the Delhi case have been convicted.

“Even with our fast-track court, we are still waiting on the verdict,” said Susan Sharma, a senior member of the Saket Bar Council, where that gang-rape case is being heard.

But Ms Sharma hoped the legislation would prove to be more effective in Mumbai.

“The new laws will apply and I hope it will send out a stronger message about justice, violence and women,” she said. The laws that were amended should have been a deterrent.”