A man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for raping an Irish woman in the Indian city of Kolkata. Sujoy Mitra (40) was convicted of raping the Irish woman who had recently arrived in India and was out celebrating her 21st birthday with friends on May 31st, 2013. Mitra, a local businessman, was sentenced to seven years on Saturday and ordered to pay a €2,560 penalty, failing which his jail term would be extended by another year. The woman, who has not been identified, had travelled to India to volunteer at the Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity.
The court heard on Friday that Mitra befriended the woman at the bar before spiking her drink and bringing her back to his home in the Kalighat area in the south of the city where he raped her. When the woman returned to her hotel her friends brought her to the police station where she filed a report.
The trial began in January 2015 and was held through video conferencing. Mitra was convicted in January 2017.
The woman, who is now 25, did not travel to India for the sentencing but gave her statement over Skype from a special studio at the Indian Embassy in Dublin.
Defence lawyers in the case had insisted that the woman record her version of events from “an official address”, reported the Times of India. The Times added that Friday’s hearing was one of the first cases where the victim had skyped her testimony from abroad.
Lawyers described the conviction as a landmark judgement, saying it could open a new path for foreigners “to seek justice without taking the trouble of travelling”.
Over 20 witnesses were called to support the prosecution.
It is the second rape case in recent years in India involving an Irish woman. Last March, tourist Danielle MaLaughlin (28) was raped and murdered on a beach in India’s south-western Goa state.
A 24-year old man has been charged and his case is progressing through the courts.
Women urged to use caution
The Department of Foreign affairs has advised women travelling in India to take extra care and use caution. On it’s travel advice website, the department warns of a number of sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities.
“Women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men,” says the Department. “This may include being photographed.
“Women travellers should exercise caution when travelling in India. The cultural norms in India are very different to Ireland. In India, it is unusual for women to travel independently. In the evening or at night time women should be particularly cautious. Women should consider travelling in a group in India.”
According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), an average of 92 women are raped in India every day with the number of reported rapes doubling in New Delhi between 2012 and 2013. In 2016, the NCRB revealed that at least 34,651 cases of rape were reported in India in 2015, or one every 21 minutes.
India’s problem with sexual abuse and harassment garnered worldwide attention in late 2012 when a 23-year-old Indian student was gang-raped and murdered.
Jyoti Singh was travelling home from the cinema with a friend when she was attacked by six men on a bus. She died from her injuries 13 days later while undergoing emergency treatment in Singapore.
The case, which sparked international interest, led to demonstrations across India calling for stronger measures to end sexual violence towards women.
In early 2014 a Polish woman living in India was abducted and sexually assaulted in New Delhi. She was with her two-year-old daughter at the time. In November 2014, a Japanese woman was raped after she was reportedly trapped by a group of tour guides.
In September 2015, a Californian woman who was visiting Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama, reported to police she had been raped by two men.
Earlier that month, three men accused of raping a 19-year-old Japanese tourist in Jaipur in the western state of Rajasthan were sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In August 2016, India’s tourism minister Mahesh Sharma advised foreign women to avoid wearing skirts or walking alone at night in small towns and cities. India also recently introduced a welcome kit for foreign visitors which includes safety advice for women.