NEW DELHI -- A 51-year-old Danish tourist who was lost and asking for directions was gang-raped and beaten up at knifepoint near the main railway station in the bustling heart of India's capital, police said Wednesday.
It was the latest such incident to be reported in India, where a series of high-profile sexual assaults against Indian women and foreigners alike over the last year have scarred the country's reputation as a tourist destination and confounded authorities' efforts to stop the crimes.
Police officials said the attack occurred Tuesday evening near the entrance to the railway station in central New Delhi. The woman, whom authorities did not identify, approached a group of men and asked for directions to her hotel in Paharganj, an area popular with backpackers.
The men led her to a dead-end road, where about eight men jumped out from bushes and cornered her, according to a police report cited by Indian news media. They raped her, beat her up and held her for three hours before she was let go and managed to return to her hotel, where the owner called the police, the report said.
A spokesman for police in the greater city of Delhi, Rajan Bhagat, said two men had been arrested in connection with the case. The suspects, both in their 20s, were found with items that had been stolen from the victim, including an iPod, a glasses case and cash.
The woman boarded a flight to Denmark on Wednesday, Bhagat said. Danish officials said they provided assistance to the victim in New Delhi and had contacted her family. It wasn't immediately known whether she was traveling in India alone.
The incident came just weeks after the anniversary of the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus traveling through Delhi. She later died of her injuries, and the shocking case focused international attention on the problem of sexual violence in India. Mass demonstrations occurred in cities across India and politicians passed tougher anti-rape laws.
Experts say the problem has existed for years, but is becoming more publicized as women slowly feel freer to report the crimes. Many also believe that rapid social change in India, which has had one of the highest economic growth rates in the world but also one of the highest rates of income inequality, has prompted some men to use violence to try to demonstrate superiority over women.
Whatever the cause, Indian authorities have been unable to end the scourge. Delhi's new ruling party, the grass-roots-based Aam Aadmi Party, came to power last month pledging to tackle the problem but already has been rocked by new, high-profile cases.
Last week, a Polish woman was allegedly drugged and raped by a taxi driver as she traveled to New Delhi with her 2-year-old daughter, police said.
The problem isn't confined to the capital. On New Year's Eve, a 16-year-old girl who had been gang-raped twice in the eastern city of Kolkata died of burn injuries after her father said that her attackers set her on fire to punish her for reporting the crimes.
Last August, a photojournalist in her early 20s was gang-raped and her male companion beaten when they went to photograph an abandoned textile mill in Mumbai for an essay for the lifestyle magazine at which she interned.