6 men convicted of raping Swiss tourist in India

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(CNN) — As India grapples with how to better protect women and girls from sexual assault, a court over the weekend convicted six men in the gang rape of a Swiss tourist.

The court in the province of Datia sentenced them to life in prison on Saturday for the March rape and robbery, public prosecutor Rajendra Iwari said.

The men have denied the charges and may appeal.

The victim and her husband were on a cycling tour across India and had set up camp near a forest in Datia district when a group of men assaulted them, beating the husband and raping the wife, according to police.

The men were members of a local tribe who live near where the travelers were camping.

Investigators recovered valuables stolen from the couple during the attack, including a laptop computer, a mobile phone and 10,000 rupees ($185).

The couple decided to stay in India to pursue charges against the men.

News of the incident triggered protests organized by opposition lawmakers in India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

They called on the state’s home minister to resign due to an alleged “collapse of law and order,” as Ajay Singh, an opposition leader, put it at the time.

India’s intense public dialogue on rape began in December, after the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in a bus in New Delhi. The student died in a Singapore hospital.

Her case focused the nation’s attention and anger on sex crimes. An outcry quickly grew over reportedly widespread harassment of women in public.

Demonstrators took to the streets to call for stricter laws on sexual assault and changes in cultural attitudes toward women.

Subsequent sex abuse cases have triggered public outrage, including the rapes of young children in April and May and the alleged rape of an American tourist in June.

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Ben Brumfield

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