Durban – A pilgrimage to a temple in Vrindhavan, India, to give thanks for her recent graduation turned into a nightmare for a young Durban woman after she was gang-raped at a beauty parlour in Mathura, a city in Uttar Pradesh.
The woman, 20, who is from Phoenix, returned home on Sunday night, a week after the incident.
The political counsellor from the South African Embassy in New Delhi, ME Van Rensburg, said only that the matter was being investigated.
According to reports from Indo-Asian News (IANS), the woman was lured to a massage parlour in the Dampier Nagar in Mathura, with the promise of having a body massage.
It is alleged that the woman’s drink was spiked and that she was raped by the driver and his friend who took her to Mathura.
According to the report, the woman opened charges of rape against the two suspects, who were subsequently arrested.
However, she withdrew the charges because she was being hounded by the media.
According to a local source who knows the woman, she left for India with a friend and an elderly couple, who acted as their chaperone, early last week.
They were staying at a guest house in Vrindavan, close to the temple, so they could attend daily prayers. The source claimed that on the day of the rape, the two young women did not accompany the elderly couple to the temple. They said they were feeling unwell and would remain at the guest house.
After the couple had left, the victim told her friend they should take a car to Mathura.
The friend apparently refused, saying she was tired and did not want to leave without informing their chaperones. The woman left on her own.
“When the couple returned they enquired about the young woman’s whereabouts. They called her on cellphone but there was no answer. They began panicking as it was getting late,” said the source.
The young woman returned to the guest house late that night, crying and clearly shaken. She told her friend and the couple that she had been raped by the car driver and his friend, the source added. The couple took her to the nearby police station and a case of rape was registered.
She was then taken to a private hospital for an examination but was transferred to a public hospital for an examination by a district surgeon.
The source claimed that on the way to the hospital, the woman was bombarded by the media.
“They were trying to take her pictures and this left her traumatised and she decided to withdraw the charges against her attackers. In the meantime, her parents and family rallied to buy her a return ticket home.”
President of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha Ashwin Trikamjee said tourists, especially women, needed to be careful and not gullible.
“Women must not go out alone and always stay in groups. They must not befriend anyone, be it men or women.”
Krsangi Radhe dasi, communications manager and head of the Women’s Ministry at ISKCON-SA, said they did not condone any form of violence.
“We have a deep-rooted value system, with ahimsa (meaning non-violence) as an important part of our beliefs. We are also distressed that such a crime can be committed in a holy place. This shows the degradation of society.”
She said the organisation also understood the important role women played within the community and formed a women’s ministry in South Africa which falls under our International Women’s Ministry.
“Recently, a special prayer service was dedicated to non-violence and the zero-tolerance stance that ISKCON takes against women abuse – this as a part of our pledge to educate both women and men within the 16 Days of Activism campaign.”